Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Getting the Shot IV

Paris Sera Toujours Paris 001

Well sports fans, there’s really not much to say about this one. This was the second photo that I made on my first ever trip to Paris. I had just gotten to my hotel from the airport, had dropped off my bag and was walking down the Boulevard St. Germain en route to Le CafĂ© Deux Magots when I saw this gentleman crossing the street. Now, I don’t do much Street Photography (although I certainly enjoy looking at it) but I had resolved to try my hand at while in Paris and I had actually set up my camera for quick shooting. I’m glad I did – one look at this guy and I couldn’t get my camera up fast enough. Is it possible to look more French?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Losing the Sale

I have very little – or, at least at the time, no experience - with monetizing my photography. I have frequently been approached in the past from persons wishing to use photography for some sort of purpose – school project, advertising for their mom and pop business, etc. Never offering payment but early on I usually acquiesced to this sort of thing, even the business requests since they were almost all South African wishing to use some of my African photos. I suppose I would do this less and less nowadays – the more I read about companies – especially large ones – trying to leverage amateur photography for pennies on the dollar if not for ‘credit’ the less likely I am to give any company the benefit of the doubt. Especially after what happened to me back in the spring of 2010.

While logging onto flickr, I noticed that I had a new email message from someone with a Korean name that I didn’t recognize. For simplicities sake, we’ll call him Mr. Kim (although I don’t know if it ever was a he or not – sorry, I’m not too good with Korean names). Mr. Kim had seen one of my photos and was asking if it could be used in a design project that his company was undertaking. Now, I don’t think Mr. Kim’s first language was English so the message was a little hard to decipher, nor was there any mention of who Mr. Kim represented or who his company was working with. Given all of this, I was inclined to just write it off as flickr spam and move on. Except, I noticed that Mr. Kim’s signature block had a 312 area code number and the word ‘Gensler’. Gensler meant nothing to me, but 312 obviously did (since it’s the original area coed for the Chicago area, of course) and so I turned to my good friend Google…and found out that Mr. Kim was working for a multinational advertising agency. Okay, now this is getting interesting. I contacted Mr. Kim back and stated that I was interested by his offer but would need to know a little more – who was their client and how did they intend to use my work (I did know that both the client and usage play into how much they should pay for a work). Turns out that Gensler was redecorating the corporate offices of British Petroleum in Chicago, and they wanted to use one of my photos to create a three-panel portrait with each panel being 30x30 inches. Wow. A multinational company (big oil!) wants to use one of my photos to make a 900 square inch print. How does one license that?

I sure didn’t know but a frantic week of internet research and consultations with other photographers got me exactly nowhere. There didn’t seem to be any sort of pricing schemes that covered something like this and the photographers I know had never licensed anything like this or in this manner. I didn’t want to let Gensler make the first offer as I figured they’d probably lowball me (I had no idea…) but I was at a loss. I figured that if I had something that BP wanted, I had – in the words of our former governor – a valuable fucking thing – but I wasn’t sure how to price it. So, I did what anyone would do – I winged it.

I basically used stock licensing as a guide to figure out the worth of this thing. Here’s what I knew: large multinational corporation, wants to exhibit in a large, highly trafficked area (corporate lobby), is making a print rather than licensing it for a set length of time (so they’re effectively buying me out), and wants to run it at 900 square inches. It wasn’t a great formula but the Gensler guys were starting to pressure me to make a pitch, so I did: $1500.

Now sports fans, I don’t know what your reaction is to this price. You probably think I was (am?) crazy for setting an asking price so high. You may be right, but if you can point me towards the right formula for determining the real worth of my photo, please let me know (seriously, I really would like to know). I knew I was making a high offer, but based on what I outlined above, I thought I was at least going in the right direction on this. Besides, I figured Gensler would at least make a counter offer.

Not so much.

About a day later, Mr. Kim wrote me back stating that they normally paid, like, $50 for something like this. And that was pretty much it. I don’t think that $50 was pitched as a counter offer – it came across as: “Wow. You are really off base.” And that was it. No more negotiations and no photo for BP. A month later, the Deepwater Horizon sank in the gulf and BP had bigger concerns than decorating their offices.

Looking back, I don’t really have any regrets. Sure, I’d have liked to have made a sale, but I guess the experience has it’s own value. Gensler’s obvious lowball offer softens the pain considerably too. I’m still not sure what the proper price for my photo was, but I KNOW that $50 is a joke. Really, my biggest feeling coming out the whole thing is that I was pissed off. Pissed off that I basically had had my time wasted doing all this research and studying, only to find out that Gensler wasn’t really interested in making a serious offer at all. I figure that Gensler got their photo from someone else on flickr who’s more interested in the fact that, wow! their photo is hanging in BP’s corporate offices.

I’d have rather had the money. Or, barring that, the experience.

Pretty Blue Lights [N.Off is N.Off]

Would you pay $1500 for this?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Getting the Shot III

So, on this lovely winter day I was heading up to Logan Square to check off another block in my quest to photograph all 77 community areas in Chicago. Getting off at California Ave on the Blue Line, I waited for the crowd from my train to disperse and switched lenses to my 16-35mm to get some wide-angle shots on the platform. Satisfied, I went downstairs to head south on California. As I got underneath the el, more or less the scene you see above presented itself: a bleak Chicago winter, the imposing skeleton of the el and a solitary girl walking north. A shot instantly formed in my mind and I set up to wait for her to get into position. I brought my camera up, steadied myself to take the shot, zoomed in and…crap. I’ve got my 16-35mm on and not 24mm-105mm like I thought. She obviously wasn’t going to wait for me to unscrew myself so I racked the zoom and popped off a couple of shots at the long and short end of my 16-35mm.

Now don’t get me wrong, I LIKE the way this shot turned out. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted going in, but I think it turned out all right. And while the framing wasn’t exactly what I wanted, I think the emotion – the feeling - I was going for did come through. I haven’t experimented with this type of shooting enough – the idea of going out and shooting to capture a particular feeling. The only one that I’ve tackled with any sort of rigor – half assed though it may be – is addressed in this shot: that of the Chicago winter. It’s an ongoing fascination of mine to capture the essence – the Platonic Form if you will – of the Chicago winter. I’m not sure that this shot does that by itself – but it’s in the right direction. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Always Carry Your Camera With You I

So there I was. Coming back from crashing at a friend’s apartment on the north side of Chicago during one of my occasional jaunts back to the City. I hadn’t yet really started to take photography as seriously as I do now, but even then I knew about the whole “always carry your camera with you” rule. I took it upon myself to violate that rule.

Since I knew I’d be crashing at my friend’s place, I hadn’t driven into the City. Rather, I had taken the el. And so, my return voyage found me riding southbound on the Brown Line on a spectacular summer Sunday afternoon. As the el made one of its many dogleg turns, I noticed a large, dark plume of smoke in the sky. I was immediately intrigued but instantly put it out of my mind – after all, that fire was almost certainly nowhere near the tracks and anyway, I didn’t have a camera.

However, as the train approached Sedgwick, it began to slow down. Moving maybe 5mph while crossing Division we emerged from the concrete canyons with a large open lot to our right and a spectacular, elevated view of the Chicago Fire Department doing some of that fire department stuff for which they’re known so well. A three flat was ablaze with three or four trucks and associated support vehicles committed to the fight. As we crawled by the scene I would have been able to easily fire off a roll of film – and from a unique angle no less.

But I had no camera.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Getting the Shot II

So this was all about light and color. There is the photographic concept of photographing light but I’m not sure if this photo really falls into that definition or not but I will immediately admit that what drew my eye to this scene was quality and intensity of the light and the colors in the scene. This is something I’ve noticed more and more during my time in photography – my eye being attracted less to the scene and more to the interplay of light and color. The trick in those situations – to me – is either find a way to make an interesting photo of what may not be an interesting scene or find a way of photographing the light itself.

A Place Called Georgetown

I’d like to think that I did that here. I don’t remember exactly what I was doing by Georgetown this particular day with all my gear but as I walked up 37th St, I was presented with this spectacular palate. Brilliant lighting combined with the colors of the scene just screamed photo. I set up and shot a couple of sequences – this was a little tricky as I didn’t want any people in my shot and there were a few walking around. I did wind up losing a yellow taxi cab parked in front of the police car which would have provided even more contrast, but I think the photo is still better for not having anyone in it. People suck.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Getting the Shot I

I only name shots after I’ve worked on them and the name has presented itself – never in advance. This is because what I intend the shot to be when I take it may not be how it turns out – so it was with this shot.

I was back in the city over the holidays and was having a great time shooting downtown. Lots of snow, was getting good night shots and I like the fact that it was cold – I tend to get bothered less. Still, the cold has its own problems and I’m always looking out for gloves that will both let me work my camera and keep my fingers from freezing off. On this evening, the fingers were freezing, and I was ready to hop on the el for a ride around the loop to warm up.

Now, I don’t always remember the specific reasons that lead me to take a shot or what exactly captures my eye, but in this case I think was the bulk of the Trump Tower being framed by the buildings along Clark St. with the el tracks providing a leading line. Just one problem – it was night and you’re not supposed to use tripods on el platforms. Well, no worries – I simply walked to the end of the platform and braced my camera on the railing at the end of the platform.  I do this sort of ‘found tripod’ thing all the time in the City and while it can occasionally be limiting in composition, more often I find it leads to something interesting. There was one slight problem with this makeshift tripod however – the railing was at a slight angle. No problem I thought, I’ll just straighten it in photoshop. However, when I brought it into photoshop, something interesting occurred – it looked far more dramatic if I INCREASED the angle of the shot. I actually would have liked to rotate this a few more degrees but I was simply losing too much detail in the corners to go much further than this.

Now, like I said, I don’t name shots until they’re done – really not until I’m getting ready to post them to flickr and I have to come with something better than DHARMA_123456_1234 which is basically what my shots are all named on my computer. Well, as I looked at this one, it was actually pretty easy; the image looked pretty cinematic but to me it went even further and had a sort of comic book quality to it – and as someone who was raised on Marvel Comics in the eighties, that’s not a bad thing.

My initial thought was to name it ‘Excelsior’ but the more I thought of it, the shot really reminded me more of one comic in particular – and so the title turned out to be pretty obvious:
“Ditko and Lee, Call Your Office."

Ditko and Lee, Call Your Office

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Hope is the First Step on the Road to Disappointment

So. Here we are – the start of yet another photoblog on this here information superhighway. Does it really need another one? Well, need is a hard thing to quantify but I’d like to think that this one at least serves a purpose. Namely that it allows me to expound on the occasional shot or wax philosophical like on matters photographic in ways that I simply can’t do on flickr or over on the other website.

Also, as someone who has heretofore been primarily a visual storyteller, describing the stories behind these shots can only force me to build new artistic muscle as it were. Is this good? For me? Probably. For you? Well, this blog is free. If nothing else, the next time someone asks me what kind of camera they should buy, I can just send them to my blog (hint: you should buy the most expensive one, they’re always the best).

Till next time sports fans. 

Radio Check

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