Tag Archives: Photography

Project Nerd Prints

I have attended a lot of conventions.  One of the things I love to check out is the Artist Alley.  This is where the various comic/fantasy/painter artists hang out and have tables and do sketches.  You can walk by and visit with them, browse their artwork and even have them do a sketch for you.

From an photography artist, this made me a little jealous.  I love the idea of sitting in a booth or table and doing on the spot artwork for people, or having elaborate mat-boards for people to browse through.  But as we all have learned, I am still in the early stages of drawing, and I don’t really have some printed artwork that I can display…….

or do I?

Castle in a Panic (P365-173)I went through some of my older photos and noticed a theme.  I have a lot of nerdy prints that I have taken over the years.  Some of these would look cool hung up in a study or in your geeky nerd cave.  So I have decided to compile them all into one place, and then offer them up “Project Nerd Prints”.

If I am at a convention I will try and have some of these printed out and available, as well as having the ability to do on the spot portraits.  This is coupled with my working on sketching.

If you think of something that would be a good Nerd Print, please pass the suggestion on and I will see what I can do.  Please feel free to browse the full gallery over at Flickr and some of the selected works below.

Project 365 status: Complete!

Reflections (P365-31)What a year!  As you have probably read in my New Years post, this year has been quite the roller coaster.  So many ups and downs that I probably would not have even remembered them all if I hadn’t been doing this project.  On of Dec 31st 2013, I took my last Project 365 picture.  It was one that we had planned, probably from the beginning of the project.  My buddy Louis and I both started P365 on Jan 01 2013 and have had lots of conversations through the year about “What should I take a picture of?” and “I am out of ideas!!” also “Why did we agree to this!!”.  In the end I am glad we stuck with it though.  I look back on some of my earlier shots and can actually see a lot of progression in technique and style. (Quick Edit: Louis wrote up his post about P365 over on his site: http://www.gamutofgeek.com/i-need-to-figure-out-my-picture/ )

There are a number of types of shots that I don’t know that I would have done had I not been forcing myself to take something every day.  By the end I really started to see myself shooting in 4 different categories:

  • Life event – Something significant happened that day and I wanted to document it.  Usually this was something like a concert, or event we went to see, but occasionally was something like “we went to see a movie”.
  • Outdoor Artistic - This was when I wanted to capture something outside in good lighting, and usually had to travel to get, or at least spend some time getting the right shot.
  • Indoor Artistic – If weather was a limiting factor, or I just couldn’t get out, I typically went for a new style or technique. These shots often involved a lot of set up and there is a certain style to them.
  • Lazy – Let’s face it, getting a shot every day is tiring.  Some days there just isn’t much to shoot and life has beat you up.  So I would just grab the camera and take a picture of something/anything.

We had some pretty lenient rules set in place before we started:

  • Using the DSLR was primary, but falling back on a Cell phone was ok (Sometimes you just don’t have your good camera on you)
  • Midnight was not the cut off, before you went to bed was.  (When we started, Louis was working a late shift and would often be up till 2-3am)
  • Try and do something different each day

One of the big issues I had in the project was the time change when I was going to and from Kuwait earlier in the year.  There was actually a huge scare involving day 35.  You see, I apparently suck at numbering.  I was constantly getting my day number mixed up (until I found this website to help me with it) so I would usually use the picture from the day before as a reference.  Well, with dateline crossing and time shifts, also being up after midnight, my numbers were always getting messed up.

Emergency Breakfast! (P365-35)Some time in August, I went into the Flickr set and did a manual count, only to find that my pictures were off by 1 day.  Not just the numbering, but the actual total count was missing one.  I was crushed.  I traced the issue all the way back to Feb 5th.  This was the day I traveled back to the states from Kuwait and apparently lost almost an entire day in the process.  I freaked out and started looking everywhere for any pictures I may have taken.  Thankfully I found that I had taken a picture of my breakfast that Sarah made me.  The time frame matches up and I was saved.

After that I was much more diligent about numbering.

So now that I am done, I am planning on taking a small break from carrying my camera around everywhere I go. (Even though Sarah bought me an amazing new camera backpack). Now it’s on to projects that I can focus the theme.

Some advice to anyone willing to try P365?  Do it, but go out and explore!  Work on something new each day, be it a location, a technique, a style, etc..  Explore Flickr and find some types of shots that you want to try and then do them.  Most importantly….. document your life with it.  Lots of stuff happens around you, grab a picture of it, but don’t forget to experience it too.  When you have the picture, put the camera down and enjoy the show with your own eyes too.

Enjoy the pictures!

 

Coffee Shop Portraits – Manassas Parade

This weekend was the first real test of my project idea, “Coffee Shop Portraits”.  The idea is simple, set up in a local shop and take photos of patrons.  They end up with a nice photo, and I get some experience shooting portraits.  I was pretty nervous going into it, but the reception was pretty good and I think it went pretty well.  It wasn’t the huge influx of people wanting their photo taken that I had feared, since most folks just wanted to come in from the cold, get their drink, and get back out to the parade.  While there was a good sized line though, there were enough people interested that I had a good time.

The setup was very simple.  I shot using my D600 connected to my SB600 speedlight for external flash.  Inside the camera was an Eye-Fi Pro 8GB card that was set to transfer the RAW file to the computer. I had my Surface Pro 2 connected to a large LCD monitor so that people could watch the processing and provide input.  I processed in Lightroom 5 which was set to watch the import folder and automagicly bring up the last imported files.  So within a few seconds, I could take a shot and then start editing it.

People seemed to love the process just as much as the photo.  Watching the editing and providing a little extra input was great, and at the end of the day, I didn’t have to go home and work on a bunch of photos, they were all done!

I think for future versions of this project, I may have some templates set up so that I can just upload the files to my site and e-mail out a link to it.  Overall I was very happy with the results and the owner of the Coffee Shop (Grounds Central Station) was very pleased with the extra attention and uniqueness of the project.

You can see all the photos here: http://www.wizzersworld.com/gallery/index.php/Gig-s/Coffee-Shop-Portraits

Buy My Art!! (Please?)

After much prodding and poking, Sarah finally convinced me to open up an Etsy store to sell some of my prints.  You can find it here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/FancyNameStudios.  Buying a print is just a fancy way of saying “Hey, I like your stuff, keep doing what you do!”

Capture

It’s essentially just some of my favorite shots that I have taken over the past few years.  If you know of something that I have shot, and would like a print of it, please email me. (See that “contact tab up at the top?  Mash it!)

You can see the rest of my work over on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wizzer/

 

Gadget Review: Surface Pro 2

Surface (P365-296)Ok so one of the benefits of finding a job again is that I have income again!  Which means I can afford to get some of the things that have been needing a refresh.  My laptop, for instance, is my main system that I do most of my photo processing and ….pretty much everything else on.  It’s an Asus republic of gamers behemoth laptop that I bought back in 2009.  (hey, in computer years, that’s ancient!)  It’s served me very well and I still use it for all sorts of home use.  The problem with it is that it’s giant.  Yeah I know it’s a laptop, but it’s big.  Way too big to actually take places and be mobile.  I have been planning to replace it as a home system with a full desktop that I can update as needed for gaming and general home use, but that means I still needed a laptop.

Today’s tech trends seem to be leaning towards the tablet types, and I love my iPad for it’s portability and ease of use…but I can’t run Lightroom on it.  Yes, I know I can process pictures on it, to an extent, but I can’t really do all of the things LightRoom allows me to do.  So running native Windows apps was very important to me, but I liked the idea of a portable tablet.

Enter the Surface Pro 2

Norman Who? (P365-302)I wish Microsoft knew how to market this device.  It really is an amazing piece of tech, but it’s just not getting the market share it deserves.  For starters, it’s not an iPad replacement.  I still use my iPad all the time for general browsing at the couch or in bed.  The iPad is lighter and much simpler to navigate.  (Not to say that Windows 8 is complex, it’s just different, and I bet it would be easy to adjust).  No, the Surface is a laptop replacement.  Plain and simple.  You can use it with or without the keyboard, but with is much easier, which just makes it a small laptop anyways.

I have had it for a week now and here is what I have been doing with it.  For starters, I have left my iPad at home, to force myself to use the Surface for everything on the road.  It fits nicely in my camera bag.  I bought the 256gb version with 8gb ram and the i5-4200 “Haswell” CPU.  I have installed LightRoom, Photoshop, Steam, and a few other “new computer essentials”.  Most of my latest P365 shots were processed on the Surface, as well as the latest RnR Comics assembled there.  So, that being said, here are the Pros and Cons I have found in the week of use.

Pros:

  • Windows 8 in touch screen format = Easy to use
  • Nice bright screen with good color
  • Stylus makes everything better
  • Small and Light enough to carry in the bag
  • Powerful enough to run everything I have thrown at it (it’s only been a week)
  • Battery life = Amazeballs for a laptop

Cons:

  • A little heavy for extended handheld use
  • Windows App library limited
  • Screen is still small for serious LightRoom use, but good for Portable
  • One more USB port would be good
  • Slight screen edge drift with the stylus.

Overall I am really happy with it.  It does exactly what I bought it for and I hope to get a lot more use out of it.  I am thinking of doing a future project (after P365 is done) where I sit in a coffee shop and do on the spot portraits, processing and all.  More on that later though.

if you have any questions or want to know something specific about the Surface pro 2 that I didn’t cover here, please ask away in comments or via facebook or twitter!

Gainfully Employed

Green (P365-279)After 3 ½ months of searching during one of the worst times for a govt. contractor to be searching for a job, I finally landed a position!  Sarah also started a new job as well.  It’s been a super stressful few months and I am really glad for the emotional support of my friends and family during that time.  But hey, that’s done and I have joined the productive society again!  I am now working in a local (to Northern VA) hosting company doing Tier 3 Windows support.  Should be interesting getting back down in the support weeds.  Who knows, it may lead to a whole new variety of twitter jokes.

Sadly, this does bring an end to my series of “Cover Letter” jokes.  please feel free to go back and see the hilarity that ensues when you try and add the wrong things to cover letters.

Pebble (P365-275)In the month since I went to shoot the LADEE launch, quite a few things have happened.  One of the reasons I haven’t written much since then is primarily due to the crappy depression that accompanies something like unemployment.  (That and the lack of sleep, irritability, feeling of worthlessness….you get the picture)  So lets see if I can shotgun these out.

We started doing a Webcomic over at RetroNickRadio!!  It’s really cool and you should go read it.

I went to shoot some Roller Derby!

Two Words….Midget Wrestling. (yeah, that happened)

Sarah and I celebrated our return to work with a trip to Universal Studios.

We got to attend a great concert by Wil Wheaton Vs. Paul and Storm

And finally, two of our super awesome friends were finally allowed to be married in Maryland so we went to wish them well.

The next month should prove interesting as I adjust to a new work schedule (read that as “Actually working again, and not in my Pajamas”)

Shooting the LADEE Launch (The 10 Second Lesson)

LADEE ProbeI grew up as a space nerd.  One of my fondest memories as a kid was pouring over a book that my parents got me that covered the history of space exploration.  I think I probably destroyed it from reading it so often and yet even today I can recall the diagrams and photos and articles from it.  I was extremely sad when I heard that the shuttle was being retired because I was just entering the age and time that I could actually make it down to see it get launched.

So when I heard that there was a launch that was taking a probe to the moon, and it was happening in Virginia, I was excited.  Not, “Hey, there is a launch happening in VA” excited.  No, this was 10 year old SNES kid “HOLY CARP THEY ARE SHOOTING A ROCKET AT THE MOON FROM MY BACK YARD” excited.  Needless to say, I told Sarah we were going to see it.  (Thankfully, she is as much of a nerd as I am and there was no question about our attendance)

Rocket GardenWallops Island Flight Facility is on the very coast of VA.  The good news is that it’s only 130 miles from my house.  The bad news is that because of the roads, it’s driving 205 miles.  The plan was to leave early on Friday morning and spend the day down there getting ready for the launch.  Well, best laid plans…. Sarah ended up with an interview at noon, and I have a phone interview that popped up at 1:30pm.  So we couldn’t leave until around 4pm.  This got us there at around 8:30pm (Launch was slated for 11:30pm).  Well, parking sucked.

 

islandSarah dropped me off at a small pier on the causeway to Chincoteague island and attempted to park, but found nothing so she went to the Marina on the island (a good 20min drive from me) to watch the launch.  The location I was at was perfect, right across from the launch pad, hardly any light pollution, and not a huge crowd.  Sarah was MUCH close to the launch pad (6 miles to my 8), but it was crowded with families, and not as much place to set up to shoot.  (from what I understand, her view was amazing, just got great for what I was doing).

Back to the idea that I was going to take pictures of the launch.  This is something I had never done before. It was a nighttime launch, so I knew it was going to be bright, but not how bright.  Do I track it?  Do I take various shots as it goes up?  Do I do a long exposure?  Why hadn’t I looked this up?!?  I had NO CLUE WHAT I WAS DOING!!!  Yeah, these were all thoughts that went through my head while I was there.  I defaulted to my instincts and shot what I knew.  Did some Long Exposure of the facility and the stars.  I figured that I would just have to be quick and snap the pics as they came.  Needless to say I learned a LOT, very fast.

When shooting a launch here is what I picked up:

  • Rule #1: Launches happen VERY FAST.  Be prepared
  • Rule #2: They are VERY BRIGHT.  I was still 8 miles from the launch pad and it lit up the whole area.
  • Rule #3: Relating to rule #1, You get 1 shot at it.  It’s not like they will do another launch in 2 min.
  • Rule #4: Take a few shots, then put down the camera and admire the fact that we are launching something into space!

When the launch happened, I adjusted, fired, adjusted, fired, followed, fired, followed, fired, and then done.  I had no idea what I got.  The screen on my D600 only gave me a small hint.  I watched the rocket as it arced across the sky, watched the different stages and marveled at it’s glory.  Only after it had become a tiny speck did I feel the anxiety of “Did I get a good picture?”

I posted to Facebook and Twitter that the launch was amazing and that I hope I got a good shot.  Then all the various responses came in of “Missed the launch, can’t wait to see your pics” and “I know you got a good one, can’t wait!”  Oh god, the pressure was on now.  I know it sounds silly, but I was seriously worried.  I checked the photos transferred to my iPad while I waited for Sarah to make the traffic crazy drive back to pick me up.  The pictures were just ok, but it was dark, and the iPad screen is only so good.  Plus, I couldn’t do the level of processing to really reveal the picture behind the picture.  Did I mess up my first launch?

Sarah picked me up and we found some sleazy motel to crash in and I think I drifted off at around 2am.  The next day we spent exploring Chincoteague Island.  I didn’t get back to my PC to process until late Saturday.

I spent probably a good 2 hours working on 5 pictures.  3 Rocket shots and 2 star field shots.  The good news is…. I am happy with them.  The better news is, I know what I can do to improve for the next time.

Also, I need to stop being so hard on myself.

Enjoy:
LADEE Launch

LADEE Launch

LADEE Launch

Bang Zoom! (P365-249)

LADEE Launch

Trooper Adventures…..the strip.

So on a whim, yesterday, I decided to try and make a comic strip.  So, I can’t draw for crap.  I have loads of talented friends who can draw so I am always jealous of them.  Occasionally I get some decent ideas on something that I think would be funny in a strip but that lack of drawing kinda puts a damper on things.  And don’t give me the whole XKCD argument, that boy can really draw.

What I can do is take pictures, and I have lots of material to use.  So I give you the first Trooper Adventure strip!
Strip (P365-238)

I am still working on formatting and such so if I do more they won’t be near as big.  Also, I may not stick with just the troopers.  It’s a work in progress.

Officially Unemployed!

Interview Time! (P365-191)And just like that, I have officially become a burden on society. Didn’t realize it was that easy. So July 12th was my last day on record at my previous job, and as if yet I have had no offers from any of the 50 places I have submitted to. I do have one hopeful that I feel the interview went well, but we’ll see.  (If you have any leads, please feel free to e-mail me!

Fear not, Sarah and I have enough socked away to sustain us for quite some time. So, in the meantime I am catching up on my photography and writing (thus this post) and looking into other things to keep me busy. I am not going to fool myself into thinking that I am some future great novelist or think that my Photography can sustain me. Mostly it’s just things to occupy my mind so I don’t go crazy.

In other news, I broke my toe! Yeah, great segway right? On the 4th of July I became a statistic by going into the emergency room with a non-firework related injury! What happened? Well, after our little BBQ and meet and greet, when everyone else had left (except James, who got to witness this delightful event) I went to get an ice cream out of the freezer. On the way back to the family room I was walking down the stairs and slipped. My left foot shot straight into the metal railing and I fell the rest of the way down the stairs.

After screaming in pain for a good 5 minutes, I finally got around to asking Andrew to remove the sock on my left foot. I took a picture of the result, but to save your stomachs, I have decided to use this artist’s rendition of what my foot looked like. As you can see, I tried to make it a little happier. The actual foot looked much, much worse.

Mah Toe

After screaming in disgust for a good 5 minutes, everyone else in the room decided that a trip to the emergency room was in order.

Fun fact about me. In stressful situations, I use humor as a defense mechanism. Needless to say, I was pretty stressed. On the way out to the car, I made sure that Sarah grabbed my phone and my iPad (so I have them) but totally forgot about things like, my insurance card, my shoes (at least 1 of them) etc. I needed my phone because I totally needed to post a picture to Facebook and twitter, right!?

When we arrived at the hospital, we didn’t see the normal patient entrance to the emergency room, only the ambulance entrance. I rolled down the back seat window and asked one of the paramedics “Where do I go for this?” with my foot outside the window. He happily pointed us in the right direction.

Thankfully the emergency room was fairly empty and we didn’t have to wait for hours on end to be seen. The whole staff was great and dealt with my “current state” with a smile. I got dosed up on morphine and the doctor straightened out my toe (to much screaming from me).

If you are really interested in what it looked like, the x-ray can be seen here. (warning, it’s not pretty)

That’s been my July so far! My project 365 is still going strong. I think it’s really helped me work on some of techniques, as well as getting over my fear of taking pictures of other people. Turns out that the average person doesn’t mind an artistic picture taken of them!

Here is a link to my Flickr page with all of the latest pics on it!

Catch up Post!

What a dump! (P365-122)
Of course I realize the irony of the last post I left here being that I was searching for the Highway of Death, and then I don’t post anything for a long time.  (Ok, it was a little funny for me.)  The truth is that I have had both a lot of things going on, and then too little motivation.

So, as per usual, it’s catch up time!

I got to go home for a week!!  I know, I was excited too.  I had some work to take care of back at the home office and it required me being there in person.  The downside to this was that I could not take Sarah with me.  She stayed here in Kuwait and held down the fort while I went home and gorged myself on pork and alcohol.  (It was a hard ordeal, but I think I left some pork in VA, but not much)

Things here are moving forward as per usual for this sort of work.  Lots of “hurry up and wait” which you get used to.  We do our best to keep busy and entertain ourselves. I think we have worked our way through a good number of TV shows tat we have meant to catch up on.

Desert Tree (P365-118)My Project 365 is going well.  I have not yet gotten tired of my camera and it has given me the chance to experiment with some different shooting styles.  Not to mention being able to look back on the last 134 days (so far) and see a snapshot of what my year has been like.  I may have to compile a little book once the project is done.

I know it’s not a great catch up post, but that’s what there is to tell.  I will try and post some more soon, since we have some interesting trips coming up.

Oh, and we still couldn’t find the Highway of death.  Turns out it was cleaned up a few years ago.

bummer

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