Monday, October 25, 2010

Guest Blogger - Rebecca Herem

Today's blog post comes from a fellow photographer and friend looking to make her way in the big, wide world of photography. My guest blogger is Rebecca Herem and among the many reasons I admire her is her willingness to up and move to a place that she loves to do something she loves. As you will see from her post today, that move has not been without difficulties but she is determined to make it work. I believe she has learned a lot from the process and she is willing and open enough to share those insights with us here. Although the title of her post mentions "recent grads" and "new photographers", I think even seasoned photographers or anyone looking to make a change could gain insight or maybe inspiration from Bek's journey:

Relocating: Tips for recent college grads and other new photographers

Just months after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in photography, I
decided to leave the land-locked and way-too-cold-for-my-tastes state of Montana
in search of new opportunities (and a warmer climate!). I had exactly 1.5 years of
professional photography experience under my belt, and felt confident in my ability
to find new clients in a big city over 800 miles from home.

But then I hit a snag: once I got there, I couldn’t find work! And this was for good

Though professors and photo pros throughout college did their best to cement into
our brains the need to “network, network, network!” I hadn’t realized just how true
this was until I moved away from—and mostly out of—my own network. Suddenly
it dawned on me: geez, they weren’t kidding! Literally every photo job I’d gotten
had been dropped in my lap by a professor, classmate, friend, or family member.
I realized that, in a nutshell, I didn’t know how to go about getting these jobs for
myself. Not surprisingly, this created problems when I relocated!

This brings me to offer two pieces of advice for photographers in similar situations:

1. Network in as many ways as possible before, during, and after you relocate. Try to
avoid the mentality that it will be easier to find work once you get to where you’re
going (otherwise, like me, you may find your hair falling out from the stress levels
associated with watching the bank account slowly empty…) It’s true that it’s harder
to job hunt and make contacts from far away, but by no means impossible! Even
one, small job will ease you into your new environment better than simply showing
up and finding yourself asking the inevitable “Now what?”

2. Utilize every tool and resource available to you. This means advertizing your
business services in as many places as possible (both online and in person) and
enlisting the help of anyone you know who has knowledge that could smooth the
transition process. (If you paid close attention to that last bit, you may have noticed
that, again, this involves networking! ;)

Since I had been living on Easy Street (metaphorically) before I moved, I neglected
to secure any kind of job opportunities prior to arriving. I thought it would be easy
to find clients, and had only researched the market casually. I thought, “It’s a big city,
there will be tons of jobs!” Well, it’s true that there were more jobs, but just as true
that there are also many more people clamoring for those jobs!

Fortunately for me, I had better luck with point #2: utilizing resources. I enlisted
the help of several of my best friends in getting my business off the ground in my
new city: Thomas designed my professional website, Lucas got it online and fully
functional, Daniel provided invaluable business marketing advice, and they all gave
much-needed suggestions and words of encouragement. I could not ask for a better support team!

Lastly, if, like me, you are relocating with a shiny new degree and solid experience,
but jobs still aren’t coming in like you hoped, help yourself out! Ease any financial
strain by getting a side job with scheduled hours (guaranteed income) or build some
good credit by taking out a small business loan. These things can, at the very least,
fund your business and land you more contacts.

In my case, I found that as soon as I ditched the more conventional methods of job-
hunting (looking for job postings) and began contacting potential clients that I found
through my own research, the pieces began falling into place. This makes good
sense, as ours is certainly not a very conventional job market!

Whatever you do, keep your head up! Even if you do find yourself taking smaller
steps than you hoped, take comfort in the fact that you are getting somewhere!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Reunion With Friends

In addition to teaching photography & computers at a youth mission in Brazil last May-June, Eddie & I spent a big amount of time developing relationships with those who are involved in the mission church and the youth club where we taught. We have been lucky enough to see several of those people back here in the states this year. This past weekend we had the opportunity to see the missionaries that we stayed with for a month as they were traveling through Bozeman. They are in the U.S. for a few months fundraising in order to continue their work once they return to Brazil in December. Although I know it's extremely hard for them to be away from their home and the people they work with, we loved seeing them and hearing what's happening with the mission. 

Aaron & his Brazilian wife Cris now have two beautiful children. Cris was nearing the end of her pregnancy with her second boy when we left last summer so it was pretty cool to finally meet him. We took a few minutes to do a little backyard photo session of the boys after we shared a rather large lunch (true to the Brazilian style!). 

 Believe it or not, I didn't pose him this way. He sat right down and said "I want to pose like this." I told him that he must have experience working as a model. So cute!

I'm not sure the little guy was enjoying his kiss from big brother!

 I learned that he's still just as obsessed with Spiderman as he was a year and a half ago. He really seemed to love being photographed but as soon as we were finished, back into his Spiderman costume he went!

 Action shot! I had to throw this one in because he kept wanting me to photograph him as he jumped off the porch.

 Yay! We got a smile!

We had a great time chatting, reminiscing, LAUGHING, and catching up. We had so many great memories of late night chats in Brazil. Good times! Cris' infectious laughter gets me going and I end up clutching my sides and gasping for air. Aren't reunions with great friends a sweet thing?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Please Don't Look

A few weeks ago, guest blogger Tessa Roche wrote about self-portraits on my blog. During that same time, I invited Tessa to the photography class I teach since I had already planned to do a lesson on self-portraits. Some of the students initially felt that self-portraits seemed very "self-absorbed" but after the lesson, I think they began to see another side to photographing themselves. Although it can be challenging (technically and emotionally), we talked about how self-portraiture can really help you to work through things partly by just focusing on what you are feeling and why. 

Juliette is one of my students who initially had some reservations with photographing herself. If you've followed my blog for very long, you may remember Juliette from my Forever Families project on the adoption of older children from other countries. That was about a year and a half ago and even back then, Juliette impressed me with her maturity. Now that she is taking my photography class she continues to impress me with her dedication to the things she loves, her work ethic, and her gratitude towards me as her photography teacher. A class period or email never ends without Juliette expressing her sincere thanks for whatever I've helped her with that day.

So, today I wanted to share with you one of Juliette's images from the self-portraiture assignment. I recognize a lot of similarities in the way Juliette approaches her work and the way I approach my own work, so I continue to encourage her to recognize her strengths and not to be so hard on herself. The following self-portrait by Juliette, entitled Please Don't Look, was my favorite of the images she submitted for this assignment. I believe the title shares her reservation in photographing herself.

Please Don't Look - A Self Portrait by Juliette Osen
 Overall I've been very impressed with the students' work and with their dedication to the class. They also encourage me on a weekly basis to continue pushing my own photography. In the future, I hope to expand my class offerings to include a film camera class and possibly an image editing class. Do you know of a student in the Bozeman area who would be interested in a photography class? If so, let me know. I'm in the planning stages for classes to be held in the Spring and Summer of 2011. Additional possibilities for 2011 include classes for adults and online classes for students outside of Bozeman or in other states. Do you know of anyone who might be interested in adult or online classes?

Monday, October 11, 2010

How To Combat the Slippery Slope

You know how you sometimes have those days when you just don't feel like doing anything? And you know how it is on those days when you don't even feel like doing the thing you love the most? For some strange reason, you've (momentarily) lost the desire to do the thing you're passionate about. It could be for a lot of reasons, or maybe just one reason. Maybe that day you felt like you were never going to be able to make a difference. Maybe it was something someone said that caused you to doubt your abilities. Maybe you were comparing yourself to someone else in your field and felt the chasm of inadequacy widen during that very moment. MAYBE, it's that you know what you want to do when you grow up but the work is just not coming in...oh wait...maybe that's just me...

The lies we tell ourselves, like we'll never make a difference or we'll never be able to do this or that, only keep us stagnant. See, I know from past experience that whenever I let those dark feelings crowd my mind, I can begin to fall ever so slightly down a slippery slope. And, by the slippery slopey nature of the slope, it can be difficult to climb back out. It's easier to just detect those blah feelings early on and cut them off rather than succumb to them and their after effects...which in my case is often a feeling of not wanting to do anything. When I realize what's happening, I can combat the thoughts and feelings with prayer and a little "one foot in front of the other" mentality.

I blogged about combining my passions a few weeks back. I absolutely love teaching - making something make sense to another person - and I love photography. Jumping back in to photography and teaching has really helped and encouraged me in other areas of my life. I'm in my element in a lot of ways, and the students I'm working with are probably also struggling with some of the same doubts that I have. It's helpful to encourage them, and to take my own advice of "just keep practicing". Working on a personal project or just carrying my camera around helps keep me motivated and working...even if the work is only commissioned by yours truly.

A couple of weeks ago a friend and I decided to get together to hang out, but also to go on a photo walk. I think we both needed to pick up the camera again and start pressing the shutter without any concerns for what the images would become. It was actually super inspiring and motivated me to keep on keepin' on.

Here's an image from that walk: 

So, here's my suggestion if you are lacking the motivation to do something, even if it's something you love: just get to it. Just as I tell people who ask how I "stick to" my workout plan, take the first step and put on your shoes. Motivation, encouragement, and inspiration, once you find them, all seem to beget more of the same.

I'd love to hear from you! What do you do to get yourself moving if you're in a slump?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

How-To: A Makeshift Set Up for Headshots Against A White Background

Last week I had the opportunity to photography people who attend Journey Church as part of a project to celebrate our five years here in Bozeman, MT. The goal was to make close-up portraits of people (read: anyone who would show up at the designated time) against a white backdrop. The portraits of the models, who were asked to make funny, happy, or silly faces, were to be slightly overexposed.

Since the portraits were only going to be from the neck up, I didn't have to worry about having a full-length seamless white backdrop. I didn't have access to a white wall at The Commons where I photographed, and I don't have any type of solid white sheet or other white backdrop material. Instead, I taped together three or four sections from a roll of white craft paper. The roll of craft paper was probably about 1.5' wide and each section I cut was several feet long. The result was a white backdrop that was about 5' wide and long enough to cover a wide range of heights. Now...on to the lighting...

I don't have a studio, so all of my lighting must be ready for "on location." For this reason, I choose to travel light. My main light was an Alien Bee 800 located in front of the model and raised up about 8-10'. Since somewhat harsh lighting was called for in the style of portraits we wanted to create, I simply used the small reflector that comes with the Alien Bee rather than a softbox or some other modifier. The light was angled down over the model's head.

Since I used overlapping sheets of paper and the background needed to be very bright, I brought along two flash heads to aim at the white backdrop. I didn't use modifiers on the two flash heads and I pointed them directly at the background. The flash heads and Alien Bee strober were triggered by the Pocket Wizard attached to my camera. You can see my lighting set up in this diagram: 

I stood under and just barely to the left side of the Alien Bee's light stand (although this was difficult to show in the diagram). I brought along a step stool for me to stand on to photograph tall people and for the younger kids to stand on. Overall, I think the job was a success!

The technical:
* Canon 5D with 85mm f/1.8 lens
* Camera settings f/11 @ 1/125
* Alien Bee 800 setting: lowest power
* Flash Settings: both at 1/16 power

I hope this has been helpful. I plan to do more "how-to's" in the future. If you're a photographer, or even just a parent taking photographs of your kids, how have you had to improvise with a background or lighting to create a portrait you have in your mind?