Living the Dream

Retiring 10 years ago from the US Navy, I felt like my dad probably did when he retired after 30 years as a police officer. We all wondered what Dad was going to do. He took up copper art and welded amazing pieces that sold very well, we never saw anything artistic from him till that moment and it was awesome! Here I was in the same position, after 30 years in the US Navy Music Program I had no idea what I was going to do when I grew up. I taught US History for a couple of year with UMUC Europe in Naples, Italy and LOVED it but that ended when we transferred back to the states (my wife is still Active Duty). I had never thought of shooting stock photography and actually never heard of it till a friend suggested I try it in 2017. Now, my photos are doing better than ever at Adobe, Getty, Shutterstock and the others. However, while traffic goes to those companies from my website, I don’t sell much there. Now, I’m working on my website and have made photos more affordable. The company that handles my printing/sales does great work too.

– Paper Prints from .23 cents (4×6)

– Wall Art Canvis Prints starting at $19.95 (8×10)

– Metal Prints (Desk Art) from 17.99 (4×6)

There’s other gift items there as well, just click the red shopping cart to get started!

It’s always an honor when people spend their hard earned cash on my photos and it’s not taken for granted. As always, THANK YOU for your support here, on Facebook, and Instagram!

https://www.BillChizekPhotography.com

New Website Promo Video for 2021!

Having morning coffee…

Recently, I had some spare time and haven’t been out shooting much, plus some other family events kept me close to home. Well, namely we had to put our four legged family member of 13 years down and it was a tough family event… Our daughters had known our yellow lab, Casey, their entire lives. I’ll just say this, our beloved pal had dementia for about the last year of her life and it’s no less savage on pets, it really affects the entire family. To get my mind off her loss, I decided to create another video promo for my website, BillChizekPhotography.com, and it was a labor intensive process which was something needed to keep me going mentally. While I’ve created other videos at my website’s Video Projects page, last year’s video was the first created for promotional purposes and people actually liked like final 2020 Promo. However, last year during that process I was actually working on two separate videos and one, the 2020 Promo, was panning out better while the other kind of dead ended creatively and was set aside.

Unfortunately, my daughters really liked the video that was shelved last year, so I picked it up again and tried to do something with it. The problem is that the project was still at a creative dead end, I was basically stuck in the same mud as last year, nowhere to go. I needed to use the same retro-themed concept of that video but decided to start over from the ground up. While the concept is the same as last year’s video, kind of a walk though the journey my photos have taken while using new photos, the format is a complete change from the last year. While I liked it, one of my daughters loved it and the other didn’t… Since they practically never agree on anything, and the fact that my wife didn’t say it was terrible, here it is. Please click this link, 2021 PROMO VIDEO, to see it and I hope you like it. As always, thank you all for your support!

Photos in The Atlantic!

On December 13, 2020, The released an online photo collection entitled, Virginia: Images of the Old Dominion. The article contains 33 photos taken at various picturesque locations in Virginia and three of those photos were mine. Virginia has had a special place in my heart since first visiting as a child in the mid-seventies. Later, in the US Navy, I would live there on and off for three years or so in the Virginia Beach area and another year at Fort Belvoir just south of Alexandria, Virginia (probably my favorite city in the US). I have many friends in VA and will always visit there and am looking forward to my next trip there!

In The Atlantic’s list and coming in at number 22 is Boush Street, taken in Norfolk at the USS Wisconsin. Number 24 is Mount Vernon, the was taken on our first day living at Fort Belvoir. My kids and I were out driving and I turned my head to look through a break in the forest and there was George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon with sheep grazing! Finally, at 30 is Summer at the Palace taken in front of the Governor’s Palace at Colonial Williamsburg, this is THE place that got me hooked on Virginia as a child in the seventies. As a completely nutty history geek, I could not be happier! As anyone who know me can tell you, I’m never happier than when my little photography and history worlds collide. It doesn’t matter if it’s where and when my photos get used or when I’m out shooting, in this case they collided hard. Living on Fort Belvoir for one year of my life was the absolute best one year of my photographic life, and yes, I miss it.

While 2020 was not the best of years for anyone, I’m hopeful that 2021 will be much better. Happy New Year to all of you following my blog!

The Covid Lockdown and NOT Shooting

Stock photography has been a very good business for a retired guy, I get to shoot pics when I want and not shoot if I don’t feel like it. Recently, with everyone trying to stay in or close to home here in Japan where I live, I was no different. Instead of heading out to shoot, I took a few months to go through the thousands of photos on my hard drive and see what I had. After sifting through thousands of photos, there were a couple hundred that left me wondering, “why have I never worked on these.” My wife can attest to the fact that when it comes to photography, I’m like a child in that I get tunnel vision and focus on the flavor of the moment. I dive in to photos and focus on my most recent shoots like a little boy playing with the new wagon and ignoring everything else in the toy box. That’s the reason I’ve never worked on so many of those photos, the little kid in my went for the shiny stuff and ignored everything else.

The way I keep track of what I’ve never worked on is fairly simple with Adobe Lightroom, I use a system of stars. Five stars and flagged means it’s currently on my website, five stars and no flag is for photos that are waiting to be posted, it’s “the pipeline.” Four stars and flagged means a photo was on my website in the current photos file but is now in the one of the archive folders (patriotic, Asia, boat, etc.) Three stars is reserved for photos I won’t sell because of the location they were taken, commercial sales are not allowed. Two stars are photos that I’ve keyworded and just need to be edited, they’ll get a 5 star once edited. One star means I’ve identified these for future editing. Might sound confusing but it works for me. On this post are just some of my photos that have sold during the Covid lockdown, so it’s been good time to revive some older pics, make a little cash, and most of all stay healthy in the process!

Stock Pics & Exhibitions!

In January of 2016 I took a dip in the stock photography pond at the suggestion of a friend who thought I could do well. ¬†I honestly didn’t know much about stock before she mentioned it and now, almost three years later, business is booming. ¬†So much so that I can hardly keep track of where my photos are used! ¬†I usually track this by doing an annual reverse image search with Google, this shows me where many of my photos are being used. ¬†Yes, it’s a lot of work, many times there are similar images and a lot to sort through, but it has yielded some interesting results at times. ¬†This year the results were overwhelming, I’m shutting down the parts of my site where I used to post all the little back stories, camera info, locations, and who was using my photos. ¬†This isn’t a bad thing, it will help to streamline my main website at BillChizekPhotography.com, I’ll still do the fun stuff about my photos, it’ll just be here at this blog. ¬†My stock photography will have a different home located within the main website menu in Stock Photos.

I knew that my sales had increased this year as they had every year since I began shooting stock, but it was amazing to see, literally, hundreds of uses of my pics all overScreen Shot 2019-10-23 at 07.15.15 the web. ¬†Everything from restaurant menus, retail stores, daily news stories, to corporate websites; I couldn’t be more proud. ¬†Forbes used my pics at least 5 times this year alone! ¬†One photo, US Capitol 16, turned up in a trailer on Twitter for MSNBC’s American Swamp. ¬†The photo at lefttp.wheretraveler is in the opening three seconds, small part I know but still kind of cool (click HERE to see the full trailer). ¬†Also discovered a couple of magazine covers using my pics, one of them, Autumn in DC, is the cover of the¬†October 2019 Where Traveler Magazine which is¬†distributed in hotels throughout the United States. ¬†The photo is of the Washington Monument in the fall issue.com LEGACY MAG COVERof 2017 when we lived in northern Virginia. ¬†It is literally a toss up for me which I like more in DC, the cherry blossoms or fall as they’re both incredible. ¬†Of all the places I’ve lived, I wish we could have stayed here longer, as an unapologetic history geek, this was heaven. ¬†The other magazine cover, using a photo called Thanksgiving 1,¬†was for the November 2018 Legacy Senior Living Magazine¬†(left) ¬†This photo was also used during that same time for of the cover of Postcards Magazine. ¬†This photo was taken at one of my all time favorite stock photography locations, Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. ¬†Whether I wanted to shoot doors, historic themes, food, or just American flags, it could all be found here. ¬†I miss that place every single day.

Lastly, two of my photos were selected for exhibitions. ¬†The first was taken in San Diego The Shadowback in June of 2016 and is of a flamingo’s shadow, oddly enough entitled, The Shadow. ¬†It’s kind of cool photo and I was just trying out new things, for every one new thing that works I have 20 that didn’t and you’ll never see them… ¬†It will show in the ‘My Favorite Shot’ exhibit in the Ravnikar Gallery in Ljubljana, Slovenia from¬†January 9-11, 2020. ¬†The second photo, Skipping, Skippingwas taken on the beach at Imperial Beach, CA in May of 2016. ¬†I actually took a bunch of shots like this one afternoon while trying out a new Tamron 150-600mm lens. I came home with the lens in a box, our daughters wanted to run on the beach, that worked for me! ¬†The photo perfectly describes our daughters; on the left is the older and more cautious one and on the right is the younger with the ‘go for it’ mentality who operates at full on 24/7. ¬†Needless to say, I liked the lens, so much in fact that I bought the newer G2 version later! ¬†The photo will show digitally in the ‘At the Beach’ exhibit at¬†the Blank Wall Gallery¬†in Athens, Greece from December 13-15, 2019. ¬†Thanks again Gurushots!

That’s about it, below is just a small collection of some of the recently discovered stock photos. ¬†Lastly, I’d like to thank my wife, without her support I’d be just sitting at home watching tv instead of doing this in retirement. ¬†She never complains when up upgrading, changing gear, getting a new bag, you name it, I’ve done it… ¬†It’s great doing something you love!

 

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Stock Photos!

Selling stock photos has been very good lately!  Lots of different publications, news, and food.  See what’s been selling:

https://www.billchizekphotography.com/Stock-PhotographyFolder/Stock-Photography

 

About this…

Photo: Flags 7

Location: San Diego, CA

Date: April 28, 2017

Camera & Lens: Sony A7R ii & 24-240mm lens

About This Photo: ¬†This post might have been titled “About these” because the topic is not just about the above photo but about all the photos in this post. ¬†Shooting stock photography means anticipating trends, I try to shoot trends that are annual in nature and not just popular today but gone tomorrow. ¬†Why spend time shooting subjects that are only trendy and only generate money now? ¬†Why not shoot subjects that will generate recurring income. ¬†It might be a better plan to shoot subjects that will hopefully generate revenue for the long haul and holidays like Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas aren’t going away soon. ¬†Neither are Veterans, Memorial, Armed Forces and Independence Days, there’s plenty to shoot besides flags by themselves. ¬†However, one thing I try to do when possible is shoot the US flag with other subjects in hopes of crossing over in to another genre. ¬†The above photo, shot in a marina, could attract buyers who are sailing hobbyist, or enthusiasts, but also people who like the southern California or SoCal vibe. ¬†What I like about this photo is that it’s not overtly patriotic, the flag is such a small part of the overall photo. ¬†Aside from the boats and marina as subjects, the water and wind play a role as well.

Advertisers start gearing up for these patriotic holidays not long after we’ve put the Christmas trees away. ¬†The above photo, taken in April, started selling almost immediately as it was taken in time for the patriotic holidays. ¬†However, most photos taken during an actual holiday won’t likely sell until following year, like I said, advertisers gear up early and by April most ad campaigns for the holidays are likely winding down. ¬†All the photos in this post have been top sellers. ¬†The below photo, top left, with the tuba was taken at a Navy Band Southwest performance in San Diego, CA. ¬†Hopefully this photo would appeal not only toward those looking for patriotic photos, but also by military folks as there is a sailor in the reflection on the tuba. ¬†Also, musicians in general may like this, maybe music stores having a 4th July sales. ¬†It goes without saying that the below, top right photo, could summon emotions from September 11th but could attract buyers in the law enforcement community as well. ¬†The photo at the very bottom was taken at a car show in Haymarket, VA and is one of several flags with classic cars taken that day. ¬†Obviously, looking toward not only car enthusiasts but also people looking for something retro in nature.

What is the point of this post? ¬†Well, if you’re taking the time to go out and shoot, spend time editing photos, consider shooting cross genres if you can! ¬†That one day at the car show in Haymarket, VA yielded not only some great car shots but also decent patriotic themed photos as well. ¬†When I started shooting stock photography a few years ago, I would set out with a goal to shoot one subject only and had blinders on the to rest of what was around me. ¬†My whole approach is different now, keeping in mind that these flag photos may be the real money makers. ¬†Car shows, flower shows, air shows and other events can also be great locations for patriotic stock opportunities. ¬†The lesson here is that patriotic photos such as these sell, sometimes a lot, and can generate income year after year. ¬†If you’re already traveling somewhere to shoot stock at an event, why not take some photos of the US flags and their surroundings if you’re already there? ¬†You never know, they just might sell more than the photos you originally came to shoot.

 

 

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.

 

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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