Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Judy's

I thought this was pretty nifty! Jeff Walton from The Judy's ran across my photos of their set at the 2008 Austin Music Awards and contacted me to see about using some for their website. I'm pretty stoked! We're only talking in exchange for CDs or something like that but that's fine. I had a lot of fun just shooting for the fun of it.

The Judy's

The Judy's

The Judy's

Link Love for April 23rd, 2008

Link love!

  • The Reality of Depending on True Fans -- Robert Rich responds to Kevin Kelly's essay on surviving as an artist. Robert gets into a frank discussion about the realities of trying to depend on true fans for keeping up your lifestyle. It's definitely sobering and makes me realize that I have a long way to go before I can quit my day job.
  • 10 ways to make Google love your photography site -- Over at photocritic, find 10 suggestions for making your photography site more Google friendly, from suggestions on linking to providing sane text for your photos.
  • 10 Things to Consider when Building your Rockin' Photoblog -- DPS discusses ten things to make your photoblog more interesting to readers. The short-list follows, but read the blog for full details!
    1. Keep it Fresh
    2. Share the Love
    3. R.E.S.P.E.C.T
    4. Keep it Real
    5. Keep it Simple
    6. Larger than Life
    7. Piracy is Better than Obscurity
    8. Chill
    9. Know your Numbers
    10. Check back soon for the follow up!
  • breaking the rules -- at Behind the Lens, George discusses breaking the rules in art and photography to attempt to differentiate yourself from the rest of the pack.
  • Scott's Top Five List for Everything! -- Scott Kelby shows us his uber-top-five list of lists for all things related to photography (and some that aren't!)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

CBS 42 Photo Contest usage agreement warning!


I was reading the Austin flickr group and came upon a post regarding the CBS 42 Photo Contest here in Austin. In a word, I'm appalled. Just appalled. The usage agreement they have in place for any submitted photo is draconian and seriously tramples on the rights of photographers. I looked over the website and couldn't find any contact info for the backend organizers, so I sent an email to Fred Cantu who announces the winners.

Here's what I wrote:

Mr. Cantu,

My apologies for sending this your way. It's not clear from the CBS 42 website who the contact is for the CBS 42 Photo contest. If you could direct this to the right person or have them contact me, I would greatly appreciate it.

I am absolutely appalled at the terms and conditions of the CBS 42 photo contest. Specifically, I am referring to the the following statements on

"As a condition of submitting your photo, you unconditionally and irrevocably assign all copyrights and other rights in the photograph to Four Points Media Group."


"As a condition of submitting your photograph, you (and any other individual depicted in a photograph) unconditionally and irrevocably waive all claims to compensation for use of the photograph, and/or any rights with respect to such use you may have under copyright law, the right to publicity, the right to privacy, the law of defamation, and any other common law or statutory claims under the laws of any jurisdiction."

As a photographer, I find these two statements simply amazing. By declaring that my rights to MY photography are unilaterally assigned to you for usage, you're effectively hijacking my ability to use those photos in the way I see fit in the future. What you are doing is a disservice to photographers, both amateurs who may not understand the intricacies of rights usage and professionals who use their photography to make a living.

I highly encourage you to reconsider your usage guidelines and make them more friendly to photographers everywhere. Please note that until CBS 42 changes their usage agreement, I will be encouraging all my friends, relatives, and other photographers in the Austin area to stay away from your contest. I would also like to note that this has begun making it's way through the Austin communities at, reaching several thousand photographers, both amateur and professional, in the Austin area.

You may also be interested in reading the following blogs regarding other photography contests on the web that have done similar things.

which leads to

Travis Campbell

We'll see what, if anything, they respond with. Until then, I would encourage everyone to stay away from that photo contest because they're stripping you of your rights to any of your submitted photos.

For reference, the urls above are also listed in a clickable way below


-edit-: fixing some formatting issues.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Livin' La Vida Strobist

Michelle Christina... or maybe we'll call it "Strobist Pickups".

On Wednesday, I went to a benefit show held by a local photographer, Jay B. Sauceda. He was doing an open house at his studios in honor of a deceased friend. Jay B. has several of the displayed photos up on his Flickr stream. The photos of Heather and Michelle were some of the most striking. The composition and color was just stunning.

I knew a few of the other Strobists in the area would be showing up so I knew it would be a good evening to hang out and get better acquainted with people I didn't know. Chris (Definitive Images), Greg, Tom, Julian, Dom, both Peter's, and a few others ended up gathering around and doing a bit of planning for the upcoming Dunvegan Keep meetup on April 27th. This is going to be a great chance for everyone to work with light. After awhile, some of us migrated outside and came upon Ben, Carol, and James. Food soon became the subject of interest and many of us trekked down to Nuevo Leon on 6th Street. (A word of warning: double check Chris' directions. ;-) The food was good but the sopapillas were a bit over-seasoned with cinnamon.

After dinner, a few of us were kind of restless so we meandered back to Jay B's to see if we could find a few other folks willing to do a bit of late-night shooting. I had my gear, Chris had his. All we needed was a model and a place to shoot. Walking back to the studio, I pointed out the outdoor stage (seen in the photo above) to Chris, so we went scout it out. Certainly worth using; the place was covered in graffiti and murals.

Inside, Chris found Michelle, one of the models that Jay B had photographed for the benefit. One simple question later and we had a willing subject, a place, the gear, and some photogs ready to have some late night fun. So, off we all hiked, just a random group of people walking around East Austin with no real plan other than to have fun and take some photos. The photog community in Austin is beginning to gel and become more cohesive, especially when you consider a bunch of us are just amateurs and people trying to break into the business. The pros seem willing to lend a hand, give some pointers, and make it feel open and welcoming.

About an hour later, Michelle and her boyfriend had to depart, so the rest of us decided to set up a group shot for the evening, located around one of the playscapes that was next to the stage. It took us about 30-45 minutes to get the idea down and lights set up. Chris had some good guidance there (as well as when we were shooting Michelle). Once we had everything set up, we got about a dozen timed photos with all of us in the picture (me, Carol, Chris, Ben, Peter, and Andrew). I'm looking forward to seeing the photos once Chris posts them.

The shot above is a three light setup. The main light is a Nikon SB-800 shot into a Westcott umbrella at camera right. There's a Nikon SB-800 at camera left providing a bit of hair and rim light. Finally, there's a Nikon SB-800 at camera right that's up close to the wall providing some illumination to highlight the detail in the mural.

One of the things I learned Wednesday evening during all of this is that if you want to shoot, just shoot. I'm finding that the more I shoot, the more comfortable I become with the equipment. I still need work directing models. I froze up a bit working with Michelle because I didn't have any idea what I really wanted to come up with. Some of the photos other folks took were pretty cool and it was interesting to watch a photo progress, one move at a time.

For now, more practice is needed and I'm looking forward to doing more Strobist Pickups.

If you'd like to see more photos from this, check out the set on my Flickr stream.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Moment it Clicks

One of my newest favorite photographers is Joe McNally. I was turned onto him while reading several different posts at the Strobist blog. Earlier this year, Joe came out with The Moment It Clicks. The book isn't really a classic how-to or filled with explicit lighting, composition, or shooting technique. No, the book is filled with what I'll call McNally-isms, short, pithy stories, each distilled down to one core nugget of information.

The book is split four chapters, three short sections on his equipment, and a wrap up with stories from The Bar room.
  1. Shoot What You Love
  2. Keep Your eye in the Camera
  3. The Logic of Light
  4. There's Always Something to Bounce Light Off of
  5. Joe's Lighting Tips
  6. Joe's Camera Bag
  7. Joe's Grip and Lighting Gear
  8. The Barroom: The Bar Is Open
One of the first things that stands out when you flip through this book are the photos. Joe's experience as a photojournalist and creative bending of light gives each image it's own unique pop. My favorite, for example, is the photo of Fiona Apple dressed up in full plate armor and standing in a New York Subway train packed with people who seem to be practicing the art of looking without looking. With each photograph, Joe briefly re-tells the story leading up to the photo. I found myself up at 3am the night I received the book because I kept telling myself, "just one more story and then I'll go to sleep."

The second thing that pops out at first glance is the small quip that comes with each story, as if he was turning into the Aesop of photographic fables. I can't say any of them were over the top, but the more you get into the book, the more you start smacking yourself in the head and saying, "Damn! That's obvious! Why didn't I think of that?!"

A few favorite quotes from the book:

We bolt and slip her through the turnstiles -- sword and all -- unnoticed. Subway came right away and I started ripping film like crazy for five stops. On the train, New Yorkers, true to form, avoided eye contact. The Fiona Apple photo, page 40.

There's nothing as sweet and simple as human interaction. It trumps everything. Dr. Oz, page 36.

Sometimes, when you've got a camera in your hands you can convince yourself you're Spider-man. Cheerleaders, page 60.

Is the only good light available light? Yes. By that, I mean, any &*%%@$ light that's available. W. Eugene Smith, page 88.

Joe's Lighting Tips is much shorter than the other chapters and that's a good thing. Joe describes eleven different things you should probably be paying attention to whenever you're shooting. Everything from "Always start with one light" to "Remember, as an assignment photographer, that one 'aw shit' wipes out three 'attaboys'." I can't say I remember each of these things everytime I shoot, but I go back and refresh my memory every few weeks just to try and make it stick.

I am envious of Joe's Camera Bag and his grip and lighting gear. Enough said.

Finally, at the end of a tough day when Joe's done shooting he doesn't forget that "The Bar is Open." In the final chapter of the book, Joe cuts loose a bit and talks about some of the experiences he's had, both good and bad, sad and hilarious. Being a father, the stories he relates about his kids really hit home for me.

Overall, this book is pretty fascinating. I've read it four times since I picked it up in February and each time I'm drawn to something different, whether it's a close look at one of his stunning photos or if it's a nugget of information that I hadn't picked up on previously. If you haven't seen the book, I highly recommend it. Just remember, it's not a book on techniques. It's just Joe giving advice that has helped him throughout his career.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Pixelated Coyote goes to Amazon

When I started this blog, I thought about different ways to make it pay off a bit monetarily. No, not because I want to sneak hard earned copper pennies out of readers, but because some of you out there might want to support me in my effort to become a better photographer. Plus, I figure if I can direct you at some good information that you don't already know about, you get get something out of this too.

With that said, I opened up a small aStore with Amazon to list books that I've gotten over the last few years (or plan to get soon) that have helped me move forward in my photography. Over the coming weeks, I will be posting reviews of each book and what I found helpful out of each.

For now, if you're interested in what the lineup is, please check out the link on the right that goes to the Amazon store.

Oh, and on a positive note, I've made $0.63 so far ... well on my way to a Nikon D300. :-D

(Really, though, thanks for your support.)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Scouting Dunvegan Keep

For the past few months, the Strobist Austin group has been meeting up to do some off-camera lighting work. In preparation for our April 27th meetup, some of us drove to Dunvegan Keep in South Austin. Dunvegan Keep is another "odd" Austin feature. It's in a residential area, built upon the grounds of a home owned by Craig Turner. The site is rather large, including a chapel, several courtyards and archways, a Roman-style pool, and several other amenities built around the theme of medieval and ancient eras. The site is primarily used for family portraits and weddings. Today, we happened to walk in upon a workshop dealing with bridal photography.

I grabbed a few photos of the place to scout out some areas for my team. The place is simply stunning. It's been completely designed and built by Craig over the last few years. He's a wonderful artisan. I'm definitely considering the site for some of my other ideas once the meetup is over (especially when you take into account the very inexpensive $45 fee for personal /family stuff).

Strobist Scouting at Dunvegan Keep

Strobist Scouting at Dunvegan Keep

Strobist Scouting at Dunvegan Keep

Strobist Scouting at Dunvegan Keep

Strobist Scouting at Dunvegan Keep

Strobist Scouting at Dunvegan Keep

Strobist Scouting at Dunvegan Keep

Strobist Scouting at Dunvegan Keep

Strobist Scouting at Dunvegan Keep

Strobist Scouting at Dunvegan Keep

Strobist Scouting at Dunvegan Keep

Strobist Scouting at Dunvegan Keep

Strobist Scouting at Dunvegan Keep

Strobist Scouting at Dunvegan Keep

Strobist Scouting at Dunvegan Keep

Strobist Scouting at Dunvegan Keep

Strobist Scouting at Dunvegan Keep

Strobist Scouting at Dunvegan Keep

Strobist Scouting at Dunvegan Keep

Strobist Scouting at Dunvegan Keep

Strobist Scouting at Dunvegan Keep

Strobist Scouting at Dunvegan Keep

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Minimalist Lighting

Kirk Tuck's book, Minimalist Lighting: Professional Techniques for Location Photography, is coming out in a month. He had a copy at the ASMP breakfast meetup, but I didn't get a chance to look at it. He's talked about it before. The book presents common lighting techniques in a way that makes it accessible to people who don't have all pro equipment. I'm really looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of this. It's release date according to Amazon (and Kirk) is May 1, 2008.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Microstock: a new source of money?

I found a new blog today, Microstock Diaries, and it's gotten me thinking about other ways that I could be making money with my photography. In the photography industry, microstock is a sub-niche of stock photography where you sell your photos for small amounts of money (on the order of $0.50 to $1 per download) under the guise of making the money up on volume. Microstock serves as an interesting niche, in my eyes. It provides a low barrier to entry as far as I can see and it's something I can do in my off time as long as I can come up with useful photos for it.

I'm in the process of reading through Microstock Diaries' postings for the last year so I can understand a bit more about some of the benefits and pitfalls experienced by people already in that market. Right now it looks like the market is something that will only be a supplemental income, assuming I can produce a moderate amount of photos each month that are new and refreshing. This market appears pretty daunting at first glance just because of the sheer number of photographers already filling the voids. The "guideline" I've seen is that you can probably earn about a dollar per picture per month of sales, but it's not clear how "good" you have to be to get into significant quantities of images. I can see this becoming a very intensive and competitive "job" if I'm not careful. (I already have a full time job, I'm not sure I want a second.)

Right now I'm looking at iStockPhoto and ShutterStock, but there appear to be a dozen different agencies doing this. Some of these places look like they want exclusive access to the photos, which means I wouldn't be able to cross-post them to make more money. I need to look at that more closely to figure out if that's a good proposition for me. It's all about maximizing my intake while reducing my output, especially considering my limited time to do this.

I'm going to set a few goals at this point. Nothing fancy, mostly things I need to do to feel more confident about this whole thing.

  1. Read through the rest of Microstock Diaries.
  2. Look over the usage terms of the various stock agencies.
  3. Open up an account on one or two services.
  4. Set a goal of 25 or 50 photos uploaded based on my current portfolio.
  5. PROFIT!

So, we'll see what happens with this. Could be interesting or it could be a big flop.

Friday, April 11, 2008


One of the things that I've been big on lately is communities. Communities for geeks, communities for photographers, communities for just random social coffee drinking. You know, just groups of people getting together for no other reason than having a common passion for something beautiful.

Today was the meetup of the Austin chapter of ASMP. ASMP is the American Society of Media Photographers. A few of the local pros and a handful of the amateurs were there, including Kirk Tuck and Jay B. Sauceda. It's fascinating to listen to these guys talk so matter-of-factly about photography.

So, this morning, we're all sitting around the table BSing and Kirk brings up a story about one of his friends (who's a psychiatrist by trade ... we'll call him Bob because I didn't catch his name) who's doing a shoot with some models around a pool for some company. Kirk happened to be there and was talking to Bob as the shoot was wrapping up. Kirk asked if Bob remembered to get the model releases signed.

"Model releases?"

Oy. So, Kirk ran off to get a stack of his blank releases to loan Bob and made sure that everyone shot signed them. Later, Bob was in discussions with the hiring company about the job. We learned that Bob had taken the job on a verbal agreement. Double oy! Well, during the discussion with the company, they basically stated, "We paid you, we want all the rights and there's nothing you can do about it. We'll use the photos however we want." They appeared to be in a position of power. With no written contract it looked like Bob was up a creek.

"But, you don't have the model releases. I do."

Without those releases, the photos couldn't be used commercially. The tone of the meeting changed immediately after that into one where the company was more agreeable to negotiation. Bob had his trump card in the model releases.

This story was quite eye-opening. I can't say that I'm very savvy on the business side of photography (but I'm getting there!) and I'm learning more everyday. But, the story reminded me of how important it was to do two simple things: always have a written contract and always get a release for the photo. What's even more amazing about this story is that, had there not been someone who had previously gone through this to tell the story to others, I'm sure I would have encountered the same situation at some point in my budding photography career.

While there, people were passing around a book, How to Succeed in Commercial Photography: Insights from a Leading Consultant. It's apparently one of the best books out there dealing with commercial photography. I think I'll be getting it soon. I didn't get long to look at it ... mostly enough time to take a picture of the ISBN for later. But, it certainly looked short and too the point.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Lighting the Nude

One of the styles of photography that I eventually want to get into is artistic nudes. No, not that skanky Hustler look or that overly lit Playboy style. Something moody, with depth and creativity. This is sort of a lead up into my big goal of doing edgy and risqué stuff ... fetish photography and the like.

I've been taking baby steps leading up to this. Mostly it's been learning to light and better understand the light. Then it was beginning to deal with models and getting comfortable with them AND working with the equipment at the same time. I'm still getting used to that. It's somewhat disconcerting: like juggling flaming pitch, a porcupine, and a running sawzall. Your hands are going everywhere, you're moving this way and that, you're jumping forward to adjust something, you're falling back to do something else. Lots of things to pay attention to.

Well, the next step in this for me is to learn more about the lighting nudes (in general). So, with that idea in mind, I was browsing the bookstore and came across two books on nude photography. The first one didn't impress me much. I don't even remember the name at this point. But, the second one, Lighting the Nude, caught my eye. It's filled with resulting pictures, the lighting diagrams behind the images, and a description of how the shot was taken. This stuff is right up my alley. I can pick apart many photos now, so it's interesting to see how some of these photos are built up.

The book is 448 pages, and is a collection of about 200 different images from various top photographers. Each chapter covers a different aspect of this style of photography, from props and posing to romantic and fetish. Each photo contains a breakdown of the lighting, positions of modifiers in reference to the model, the camera exposure and film type, as well as a short but concise write up by the photographer. Another thing it has going for it is that every photo I've seen in the book is done in a very tasteful way and I've gotten quite a few ideas for photographs I'd like to create.

Overall, very well done and recommended (if you can find a copy).

Finding my 1000 true fans

I was reading Kevin Kelly's post about 1000 True Fans today and a statement within it struck me.

A creator, such as an artist, musician, photographer, craftsperson, performer, animator, designer, videomaker, or author - in other words, anyone producing works of art - needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living.

This simple idea made me realize that for me to succeed in my art, my photography, I need to make an effort to actually market myself and what I do. I sort of started this by opening a Model Mayhem account earlier this week, mostly as a way to have a simple portfolio that models and other photogs would see so they could begin getting interested in what I do. I also re-began this blog as a way to put forth a more "professional" face on what I do. The next step is to get a real website. I like Flickr, but it's not a great tool for presenting myself to people who wish to work with me. Don't get me wrong, I love Flickr and what it has allowed me to do, but I'm ready to take the next step.

So, one day at a time, one fan at a time. Starting this all today means I'll have something to show for in three, five, and even ten years down the line.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

A fresh start

Hello! I'm Travis and I'm a Strobaholic.

It all started last year when I found this website about some bloke up in Baltimore who did these really cool things with flash. I instantly became green with envy. And then sad. Really, really sad. You see, I had this Fujifilm S7000. It's one of those cameras that bridges the gap between dSLR and P&S. My wife and I had bought it on a trip to Florida with the kids to visit family. For it's time, it worked reasonably well.

But, as I read more and more of this "Strobist" thing I began to realize that it would probably make life a little difficult. I mean, I couldn't even change lenses on it. How limiting! So, I went forward in a one-man battle to convince my wife to spend money on a new camera, one that would be the basis for my hobby going forward. After weeks of intense negotiation, she finally agreed to let me spend $1500 on new camera equipment. It started going down hill from there.

Should I get Canon? Should I go Nikon? This Hobby guy, he was doing Nikon. I want to be like Mike! ... err, David. So pillaged camera sites for a few more weeks looking for reviews and opinions and information and ... well, you get the idea. I settled on a Nikon d40, a 55-200mm lens, and a small light kit, and a Nikon SB-800. And that's when things went from bad to worse. You see, I was suffering from a common illness, only I didn't know about it. A horrible, debilitating disease, I tell you. NAS. Nikon Acquisition Syndrome. It made me restless. I couldn't stop thinking about buying more and more Nikon gear. Everywhere I looked, I saw a guy in a dark corner beckoning me with shiny Nikon bodies, sharp lenses, more flashes!

And then, I discovered Pocket Wizards. Kids, let me tell you ... they're worse than heroin. And the first hit most certainly is not free. I convinced my wife that I needed these wonderful little black boxes of flashing control. And a second flash. More negotiation commenced and by summer I had them in my grubby little hands. Two PW's and a Vivitar 285. I felt INVINCIBLE! I felt like J in Men in Black ... I'd walk around the house with a pocket wizard-enabled camera in one hand and the SB-800 and pocket wizard in the other and flashy-thing the cats. the dog. the kids. little knick knacks. apples. the occasional bottle of wine. You name it. I flashed it.

The NAS is worse than ever. I touched a d300 a few weeks ago and now it haunts my dreams. But I couldn't get one. Not yet. So instead, I convinced my wife (again!) for more camera equipment and picked up a second SB-800 and a third pocket wizard. BWAHAHA! More flashy-thinging the cats. Only this time, in STEREO!

Ok, ok. Poetic license is over. ;-)

I've been photographing stuff for a few years but didn't really get "serious" about it until early in 2007 when I got my d40. When I'm not flashy-thinging stuff, I spend my time reading various blogs and websites on photography. I began my photography with Ansel Adams as my idol. I've always loved his photography and style. My photography certainly doesn't measure up to his, but I'm finding that each time the shutter clicks, my skill gets a tiny bit better. My composition has certainly improved ALOT over the last year. Strobism has helped me understand how to photograph people more. This as one area that I always felt I sucked at. I think I'm getting better. :-)

Everything I've learned has been self-taught through the help of books and various resources on the net. (And I admit, I occasionally go through Cosmo and cut out interesting photos to build ideas upon). I'd love to go back to school and get a degree in photography. At some point, I'll be able to do that. For now, I think there's a lot to learn from the people around me and that's good enough for me.