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Putting it out there and the 3 elements of a good creative project

Putting it out there and the 3 elements of a good creative project

I have been inspired by a friend to ‘put it out there’ and get make myself a facebook page.

Why?  Because I have come to think that the best thing you can do to improve your skills is to give yourself a project.  Having someone else give it to you works too. The most powerful projects have three critical elements.

  1. A deadline, or at least a target date.
  2. An audience.
  3. Feedback

These things are just as important for writing as they are for photography. The old adage “You can’t edit a blank page” credited to Jodi Picoult is every bit as true for a picture as for a poem or piece of prose.

A deadline is important because it means you win the battle against the inner perfectionist. That doesn’t mean you don’t strive to do the very best you can, but that’s driven by point 2 quite adequately, but it does mean you produce something and that you show it. Only by doing that will you be able to step back and get some perspective on what it is you’ve done well, and what you need to learn more about to improve on.

The audience you choose, or the audience that chooses you may or may not be within your control. There may be people you want to review or even critique your work that may not care to. There may also be people whose opinions you don’t care for who will.  In the internet age its trickier than ever to balance those two things.

The most important thing to remember is that Feedback is a Gift. My dearest friend Jane told me that once, and I have carried that sage advice close to my heart ever since. Negative and critical feedback can be of even greater value than praise, and for some people can be even harder for them to give you, so treasure it when you get it.

Praise is always nice too of course, and can help you pick up the camera, pen or keyboard again when you’re having a heavy day.

A while ago I joined up with The River Guardians as a Dolphin Watcher. It’s a citizen science project that helps ordinary people like you and I report on the behaviour of our community of swan river dolphins. Now I have to admit that I have been very slack about doing my online reporting of late because I haven’t seen dolphins lately. I do know that negative data is as important to them as sightings, but we all have moments of laziness, and I guess I haven’t been in the negative gift giving mood. But that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped putting the camera in my bag every day, and yesterday I snagged a couple of shots.

dolphin-calf

The Dolphin Watch people have been great in proving me with comments (feedback) on my past photography, and that inspires me to want to share my new pictures (audience) so I’m going to guilt myself into sitting down this morning and sending through all of those days over the last week and a half when I didn’t see anything (deadline).

It’s a great little loop to keep going, and like with any habit it’s easier to keep going than to break.  But when you do take  a break, it can be hard to get going again.

So, long story that has failed to be short, I’m putting it out there in the hope that doing so will give the loop more momentum and make it easier for me to keep pressing the shutter button, and sharing the results.

So consider this an invitation to provide feedback – constructive comments in particular gratefully received.

Chile, Argentina and Antarctica

Chile, Argentina and Antarctica

This proverbial trip of a lifetime has been over a year in the planning.  And that’s with someone else planning the important things for us (Thank you Alex Cearns and World Expeditions).

Just like many of the people I’ve spoken to about the trip, I was initially suprised that we would be traveling to Antarctica via South America, and not Tasmania as I had imagined.  This is why…

Map courtesy of http://www.free-printable-maps.com/maps-of-continents.htm

We will be going to the Antarctic Peninsula (the bit in the red square).  The trip from Ushuaia, Argentina to the Peninsula via Drake’s Passage should take us a couple of days. Travelling from our side of the world would take us to the eastern side and take considerably longer. So all in all the loooong flight from Perth to South America makes sense, and lets us visit three other countries on the way.

Perth to Santiago, Chile

15 January

We fly via Sydney and will no doubt spend most of that time trying not think about Brian and Craig and their Business Class tickets to Europe.

Santiago, Chile 

16 – 18 January

We will be staying in downtown Santiago.

Iguazu Falls, Argentina (and a bit of Brazil) 

19 – 23 January

Seeing as this trip is actually our belated honeymoon, I thought a few days of luxury were in order.  We’ll be staying in the Sheraton, in the national park on the Argentinian side.

Buenos Aires, Argentina 

23 – 26 January

Staying downtown we may take a bicycle tour to check out the sights.

Ushuaia, Argentina 

26 – 28 January

Before setting off on the boat we have a fun day out planned with Canal Fun Ushuaia which will take us out into the Tierra del Fuego National park.
We’ll meet up with our tour group before embarking on the MV Ushuaia.

Antarctica 

28 January – 8 February

Aboard the MV Ushuaia we will spend the first few days hoping for a calm crossing of Drake’s passage and that the sea sickness meds work.

We’ll then make our way around the South Shetland Islands and the west side of the Antarctic Peninsula visiting an assortment of islands and bases.

Ushuaia, Argentina 

8 – 10 February

A quick stop to get our land legs before heading home.

Buenos Aires, Argentina 

9- 11 February

Just a day.

Buenos Aires to Perth  

11 – 12 February

The long ride home.

FastPictureViewer

FastPictureViewer

In the age of digital photography you can afford to have a number of misses to each hit. When I head out, camera in hand, I know that when I come home I’ll have anywhere between a few hundred and upwards of a thousand images to review. Shooting in RAW has lots of advantages, but the files are big and the process of going through each one to decide if it is a discard or a keeper can be a slow.

To ease the pain I use a piece of software called FastPictureViewer Pro. I’ve been happily using it for over two years now so I’m comfortable enough to share my experience with it.  To my great relief the Pro license I bought will allow me to install it on my laptop as well as the PC, so when I’m traveling to far off parts next year I won’t be without this nifty bit of kit.

 

The license, including codecs, cost me $50 when the AUD / US exchange rate was just about at parity.  I haven’t had to pay a cent for upgrades since, but apparently if/when there is a major upgrade I’ll get a discount. It’s available to trial for free.

So, what does it do? The codecs allow you to browse thumbnails of raw images through Windows explorer as you would jpgs. The viewer lets you review all of your images super fast, quickly rate or tag them, and apply workflow to delete, copy, rename, resize based on those tags and ratings, and a stack of other rules.

So my workflow goes like this;

  1. Plug camera into the PC and let the EOS utility download all of the images into a date named folder on my external hard disk (Called Photos – original).
    I have a card reader, but I really like the way the EOS utility works and prefer to copy direct when I can.
  2. Open FastPictureViewer
  3. Reviews images one at a time, zooming in with a click of the mouse to see which  images have what you’re looking for in the finer detail.
  4. Use the one key rating method to assign a xmp rating to each picture.
  5. Use the FPV Advanced Features – File Utility to delete or copy images based on my preset rules
  6. Import into Adobe Lightroom where it can read all the xmp ratings, and I
    can use Lightroom to create a third copy of my 4+* images for me to
    work on.

For reference my rating scale goes like this;

* Useless, this can be deleted at any time to retrieve space
** Next to useless, but you never know if you might need to come back to
this to figure out what you’ve been doing wrong.  Leave it on the
original disk but don’t copy it anywhere.
*** Meh, copy to the next stage but likely won’t do any further processing on this image
**** Keeper image, copy to hard disk for editing
***** Straight to the Pool Room, this one will get some attention and will
most likely be printed, used on a blog post or manipulated into a graphic for Redbubble

You can flag pictures for deletion, or for publishing and it can publish straight to Zenfolio, Facebook, Flickr etc. I prefer to do some work on my keeper images before they go anywhere else.

The interface includes some great features, which come in handy when you are trig to see at a glance why something worked, and something else didn’t. So aperture, shutter speed, ISO, metering mode etc are all front and centre as well as a histogram. You can toggle those displays on and off as you wish.  They can also sit on your second display as they aren’t locked into the Viewer window.

I’m sure that by now there are other applications out there that do similar things, but I think it speaks well for this product that in two and a half years I have never once gone looking for an alternative.  It does the job I need it to, and does it well and you can’t say better than that.

Moving virtual house

Moving virtual house

There is a saying that if you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. 

Life at present is as full of things to do as I can ever remember it being. Luckily many of those things to do are wonderful, fun, fulfilling, creative things.

We’re now running Long Dogs walks every month of the year, so unlike 2013 I haven’t had the winter off to do as much with the birds. We’re close to wrapping up the photography for the Long Dogs 2015 Calendar now, so I’m going to ask myself to set aside time to keep this blog and my personal photography up-to-date.

Part of that process has included registering my own domain name, saasyg.net and moving my photographs from Smugmug to  Zenfolio. The first of those was obviously prompted by the second.

It’s still a work in progress, and there are some pieces of functionality that aren’t coming with me, but I’ll be saving myself some money and getting myself an Australian Print Services, which means not waiting 3-4 weeks for delivery.

If you want to check out the new photo site you can see if here http://www.sassyg.net. Links to the old galleries will be broken sometime soon, so if you’re looking for something and you can’t find it, let me know.

It’s possible you could look at this as one of those examples or procrastination through activity, like covering your school books with contact rather than actually studying from them.

The other areas I’ve been exercising my creative muscles in has been learning about the Adobe Creative Suite, namely Lightroom, Illustrator and InDesign. I’m still a beginner but I am finding them immensely valuable. Just as well as they are not cheap.

They have enabled me to play around with images more.

One of the great joys of life is always having new things to learn.