Archive for 'Shop Talk':

Wedding Photographers Deserve Our Respect.

I put a call out a few weeks ago to see if anyone would let me shoot their wedding in any way that I wished to. There’s a reason I want to shoot a wedding or two this year as an experiment. I’ll get into that in a bit but this blog post is more about several conversations this request sparked, both online and offline.

No. I’m not starting a wedding business. Just doing an experiment and having a bit of fun.

Let’s get in the WayBack machine and go ALL the way to 1999’ish. Digital was coming of age. DSLRs were now hitting the $5k and below mark on pricing and a number of photographers were jumping out of the film ship and into the binary seas. The photojournalism scene back then was dying and many daily paper jobs were being cut. Day rates for the wires were less than I was making as an assistant. Photojournalists were looking to the editorial world but rates there sucked as well. They still do. Anyway…


Street Photography :: Photography Is An Enigma

This week Complex Magazine named me as one of the top 50 street photographers right now. I’m part honored and part embarrassed by this. Part of it has confirmed something inside of me. Part of this has depressed the hell out of me. On one hand I feel empowered to go deeper and on the other hand I feel I owe a lot of street photographers an apology. If I had a third hand I owe some photographers a big thank you. Let’s see. Can I be more random? How about this. This post is best read late at night while listening to “Last Confession” by Hilltop Hoods.


Ummm. Maybe. Ummm. Yes. :: Fuji X-Pro 1 Review

April 11, 2012 | • Gear & Gadgets Shop Talk

I’ve had my hands on the new FujiFilm X-Pro1 for a little over a month now and I have put it through the paces in three countries and on various jobs. If you are a frequent reader of this blog you know the deal. If you are a new reader of my blog let me explain the deal. I don’t pixel peep, shoot side by side comparisons, show images of color checkers and resolution charts, or talk about the new technology packed into whatever camera. Heck, I really don’t do “reviews” that often.

This review is more of a “how-does-this-thing-work-in-the-real-world-and-is-it-something-that-excites-me-or-does-it-just-become-a-photographic-appliance?” kind of review. Also, let me state for the record that I was hired by FujiFilm Middle East, and was paid in camera gear and cash to take this machine for a joy ride. The first thing I said before taking this gig, though, was if I was going to blog about it they needed to understand that I would say whatever I wanted to about it. The good folks at Fuji said they expected nothing less. Especially after my x-100 review. It was that review that put me on their radar in the first place and it was the good folks at Gulf Photo Plus that convinced them they should send me to India. I’ll be doing some stuff with Fuji North America as well. So, full disclosure now aside, let’s get into it after the jump…


Testing The Fuji X-Pro1 :: Quiet Hounds

February 26, 2012 | • Gear & Gadgets Shop Talk

How have I gotten hold of the new Fuji X-Pro1?

[montypython]The Lady of the Lake, her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite held aloft the Fuji X-Pro1 from the bosom of the water, signifying by divine providence that I, Zack, was to test the new X. [/montypython]

That is exactly what happened. Well, not really. The X-Pro1 isn’t waterproof. I got an email asking if I’d be interested in using the new camera since I loved the x100 so much. Will this system have the same soul as the x100? I won’t reveal that yet but as I unboxed it I think I said OMG 26 times in a row. :) I’ve never been asked to test a pre-production camera before so this is going to be fun. I’m also allowed to say anything I want to about it. I can love it, hate it, or be indifferent.

I will be running the camera and it’s three new lenses through the paces on assignments and personal work over the next three weeks and will report my findings here. If you have specific questions about this camera please let me know in the comments. Many of you have already been asking questions on Twitter. Focus speed, manual focus, ISO performance, lens performance, overall image quality, is it worth the money, is it a DSLR killer, does it eat M9’s for breakfast, etc, etc. As always, I won’t be counting pixels or describing bayer patterns or burning villages because of menu layouts. I’ll let you know how it actually works in the real world instead of a testing facility with Macbeth color charts and thrift store knick knacks. Off to find some squirrels.

In the mean time, check out Quiet Hounds. They played their first show last night to a packed house and I have to say they are one of the best new bands I’ve heard in recent history. Meg has been going on and on about them and she’s right. (She’s always right) The show was amazing. Sign up on their email list and get their music for free.99. The image above was shot under extremely challenging lighting with the X-Pro1 and the 35mm f1.4. F1.4 @ 50th @ ISO 1000. Shot B&W jpg in camera, cropped in PS, slightly sharpened for downsizing for web. (.2 pixels @ 80% @ 0 threshold) Blah, blah, blah.



Why I Moved To Medium Format :: Phase One IQ140 Review

February 4, 2012 | • Gear & Gadgets Shop Talk

I’ve recently moved to a digital medium format system and I thought I’d blog about the process of choosing a system and why making this jump was worth every hard earned penny to do so. But first, let’s enter the way back machine. If you are fairly new to photography and DSLRs have been your entrance into this industry then this an important part of the blog post. Bear with me. All of it after the jump. (If you don’t see the video above just hit refresh. Not sure what’s going on with the embed code)


Canon Switch Update :: All is Well

December 8, 2011 | • Gear & Gadgets Shop Talk


I recently wrote in length about my switch from Nikon to Canon. I thought I’d update you on a few things since making that switch.

#1 – Lately I find myself predominantly shooting with the 35mm f 2.0 and 85mm 1.8. You could weld one of those on each body and I’d be set for life I think. Except that 35mm f2. When I made the full switch I kept the “decent” Canon 35mm f2 and bought the crockstar 24mm 1.4 lens. I now wish I would have switched that decision. I’m just not shooting that 24 nearly as much as I thought I would. I’ll be replacing that 35 at some point. It doesn’t have to happen tomorrow because the f2 is still an amazing lens but I’ve tried the 1.4 and I know that would get welded to a camera body to never be removed. Live and learn right?

#2 – I really miss the in-camera multiple exposure feature in Nikons. I didn’t think I would but once you don’t have it you want it. Multiple exposure images are easy enough to do in post production but it takes the fun out of it. When doing it in-camera you either get it or you don’t and there’s lots of room for really interesting mistakes and WTF moments to happen that you just don’t get when doing it in post. Oh well. I don’t shoot it that often but I do wish I had it. The image above is a “triple exposure” done in post. I try to not tweak things too much. I want the chips to fall where they may as though I did it in-camera.

#3 – I thought I would shoot the 135mm f2 more than I do. I’m surprised I go to that cheap little 85mm 1.8 so often but that 135mm f2 lens is one of the finest lenses I’ve ever owned. For me I like to have a healthy amount of space to use that thing. Many of my assignments lately have had me in pretty tight quarters so it hasn’t been put to use that much but there is zero regret in getting that lens. Oh. Emm. Gee.

#4 – I do miss the D3 body but I’m still happy with my switch. Aside from that lens decision I would reverse I’m pleased with my switch. I most love having one complete system instead of two half assed systems. If I were to add anything to this kit it would be the 14mm f2.8 lens. That is a beast of a lens but I’m good without it.

And… I’m done with 35mm DSLR buying for a long time to come. Bring on the five dee mark three point two sub paragraph nine whatever. I’m good.



PS – Yes… I’m on my annual social media hiatus. I find I need to unplug from most things as we head into the darkness of winter. It’s my time to figure out what in the hell I’m doing with myself. That’s hard to do with all the noise. I’ll be blogging and despite it falling in the social media genre, I’m still on :) Hope you are all doing well!

Workshop News :: 2012 Events

November 7, 2011 | • Workshop

I always thought I would retire into teaching after a long photography career. Little did I know that I would end up teaching in my early 30’s. I’ve been teaching the OneLight workshop for about five years now. I love my workshop, and I love teaching it, but it is time for me to give it a bit of a break. The OneLight has literally taken me around the world. I had no idea how successful it would be when I started it in Tampa, FL with a flip chart and some B&H print outs.

It is time, though, to give it a break or to give myself a break from it. I’m not sure which one needs the break more. I have three more dates to go this year and they are all next week in Texas.

While I am retiring the OneLight in its current form, I do have some set teaching dates for next year.

March 5th – 10 :: Gulf Photo Plus in Dubai – I’ll be teaching a mixture of classes from Photo 101 basics, to the OneLight, to an advanced location portrait class. Gulf Photo Plus is one of the most amazing weeks of photography education that I know about in an amazing and surreal location.

June 17th – 23rd :: Focus On Nature in Iceland – It’s a real honor that the good folks at Focus On Nature have asked me to teach a week long class for them in Iceland. Nature Schmature… we’ll be working on portraits the whole time, but with Iceland as the backdrop. This is going to be a pretty interesting workshop in that a small group of us will be together for seven days through lectures, critiques, shooting, and roaming around the country together. Natural light, small flashes, and bigger strobes will all come into play. From the streets of Reykjavik to the unreal landscapes Iceland is known for, this is going to be an amazing week of shooting.

At $6,950 you have every right to choke on that bagel you’re eating right now but… this is one of those deals where you are taken care of from the moment you walk out of the airport to the day you are flying home again. All of the accommodations, food, and interior travel are taken care of. You just have to pay for alcohol and Bjork CD’s while you’re there.

August 25th – 31st – Rocky Mountain School of Photography – I’ve been invited back to Montana to teach another week long lighting class. The class is based in Missoula and it’s a week of learning to use light during the day and learning which beer you like at the Rhino at night. :) I love RMSP and the people there. It’s really a great place. Check out all of their offerings. That school is a jewel in our industry.

O Canada! – All right Canada. We “think” we found our way to legally enter the country and teach the OneLight. We have more requests to come to Canada than anywhere else. Your border is also the biggest pain in the ass to cross with bags of pro gear in tow. I’m on a list and can’t enter the country with professional camera gear unless I have all the proper paper work in order. I’m no National Geographic photographer but Canada is by far the biggest pain in the ass of a country to enter with a camera. That just makes me want to come up there all the more. Damn the list! As soon as we have all the paperwork in order I’ll announce dates.

That’s about it for teaching next year. I’m sure a few things will pop up here and there but I really, really, really need to take a break from traveling for the next year and just be home as much as I can. Sign up on the mailing list to be the first to know about anything going on with my teaching schedule outside of the dates listed above. You won’t be spammed. I don’t have that much to say. :)



Editing Your Portfolio

I’m currently in the process of updating and printing a new portfolio and I thought I would take a moment half day to talk about the process.

My dear friend, Marc, has said of editing, “It’s like lining up your children and deciding which ones you’re going to shoot.” That quote isn’t going to end up on the front of a greeting card anytime soon but it does get to the heart of the matter. Andy Lee rephrased it to, “…deciding which ones you love more.” Either way, the process can suck but it is a process you need to go through on a regular basis. At least twice a year. Minimum.

I know many of you are wondering why I’m working on a print portfolio. What about web sites, PDFs, iPhones, thumb drives, laptops, etc, etc? Are printed portfolios still relevant? In my opinion they are. That opinion also is held by many in the editorial and advertising world. I know of two leading Ad agencies that won’t meet with you if you walk in with only an electronic portfolio. They want to see your book. The printed output of your work. Anything can look good on an iPad. Can it print? Can it run larger? The devil, and the jobs, are in the details. Wedding photographers know this all too well. Do you want to deliver a disk of zeros and ones or would you rather deliver a beautifully printed album? What is going to live in plain sight? A thumb drive or a book? Which one will be cherished? Which one has lasting value? Which one makes you more excited to deliver? Which one is instant? The book. That’s which one.

A printed book is a thing to take pride in. There’s something tangible about it that holding an iPad doesn’t compare to. Note that I’m a big believer in electronic forms of showing your work. I walk into every meeting with a print book AND an iPad. The book is the best representation I have of the work I do. The iPad holds expanded galleries of work that support the book and hold other galleries of work that don’t find their way into the main book. Things like personal projects, travel photography, video, etc. Eventually I want to have a series of print books that show a range of the work I do.

I’ve lived as a photographer for some time without a book. I wanted a book but didn’t have the time, money, discipline, etc to get it done. Going from having no book to having a book you’re ready to show is a pretty large mountain to climb. Choosing the physical book and making the prints are the easier parts. It’s editing the book that will make you cry and leave you feeling completely inadequate as a photographer. You’ll pray for your strengths while constantly focusing on your weakness through the process but I can’t stress enough how invaluable the process is. For me it’s more about the process of building a book than actually having a physical book to show. Let’s talk through the physical process.

The full discussion can be found after the jump…


My Interview on TWiT Photo :: Video

August 17, 2011 | • Discussion Shop Talk

I recently had the pleasure of being a guest on the TWiT Photo podcast with hosts Catherine Hall and Leo Laporte. I suppose with a name like TWiT I was the obvious choice to be a guest. I’m hoping to get to California at some point to see their brand new studio. Check out their weekly podcast here. Also, I’ll be part of a panel discussing photo sharing on the web. That will be live today. I’m sure it will be recorded for future viewing.


Catherine is hosting a webcast tomorrow (Thurs. 8/18) at 3pm EST. I’ll be joining the panel discussing copyright and sharing photography on the web. The panel is full of some amazing folks like photographers and bloggers Trey Ratcliff, Frederick Van, and Nicole Young. We’ll also be joined by Mike Linksvayer (VP of creative Commons), Christa Laser (specialist in copyright law), and Brian Rose who is the photos community manager over at Google+. I’m sure we’ll be discussing, among other things, the hotly debated G+ TOS that have divided opinions from many in the photography industry. It’s going to be good to hear from a manager of the community there.

You can watch the live broadcast here today (Thursday 8/18) –




Headline :: I Switched To Canon. World Still Turns.

August 14, 2011 | • Gear & Gadgets Shop Talk

I made a “what’s in my bag” post in 2009 about my mixed kit of Nikon and Canon gear. I’ve recently sold my Nikon gear and have gone 100% Canon to the surprise of many including myself. I’ve fielded lots of questions on Twitter about it, many I have not gotten to, so I’m making this blog post to cover your questions and to take the time to talk about why I am doing all of this. In this post I’ll talk about my past kits, my current kit, why I made the switch, the gear on my wish list, and why none of this matters all that much. Be warned, this is fairly wordy. :)


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