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March 19, 2015
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The Lightning Bug – Lightning Trigger

LightningBug

About six months ago I bought a Lightning Bug lightning trigger and I love it. I wanted one to make my lightning photography easier and safer. No more leaving the shutter open for countless 30-second exposures to hopefully get something. No going out and taking 100 shots to get 3 photographs of lightning. It’s great.

The Lightning Bug attaches to a camera’s hot shoe, and then it watches not for lighting, but the burst of infrared that precedes a lightning bolt. Point it towards a storm, choose your settings and just wait for the shutter to fire. Your camera will capture the bolt almost every time.

The only time it doesn’t is when the Lightning Bug sees a bolt that’s out of the viewing area of your camera lens. The Lightning Bug covers an area of about 45 degrees side-to-side and 5 degrees up and down. If you’re getting a lot of shots from lightning outside the range of your lens, you can lower the sensitivity of the Lightning Bug, and reduce these shots.

Lightning0169

There are some nice perks to using a lightning trigger.

  • You can sit in the car during a storm, reducing your chance of being hit by lightning. I’ve almost been hit twice. Not fun. If it’s windy, remember this rule, never be more than an arm’s length away from your tripod.
  • You can get out of the rain.
  • In the Southwest, you can keep checking around your feet for snakes, scorpions and tarantulas, without missing any lightning shots.
  • You can scan the skies, and your surroundings, instead of focusing on your camera. I watch to see where the storm is moving, if another storm is coming my direction or if a coyote or javelina is sneaking up behind me.

Two main reasons I chose the Lightning bug is that the buttons on the top of the unit are sealed, so there’s no chance of water leaking in around a button and frying the electronics. And the unit is powered by a standard 9V battery. I like electronics that run off of inexpensive and easy to find batteries.

The Lightning Bug lets you adjust the sensitivity of the unit, depending on how far away the storm is. I keep the sensitivity pretty high. This lets me catch distant storms and smaller bolts of lightning.

Lightning0164

I have used this unit several times, both at night and daytime, and it works great. It catches more lighting than I did before I had it, and it lets me enjoy watching the storm while my camera takes pictures by itself.

I would suggest playing around with the unit at home to get familiar with how to set your camera and Lightning Bug. One thing to know, when you want to change the setting on the Lightning Bug, you must turn off your camera. Practicing all of this ahead of time will prevent you from wasting time in the field.

Simplify your lightning photography, and get yourself a Lightning Bug.

(For tips on lightning safety, check out my article How To Photograph Lightning, And Live To Tell About It)

Have Fun,

Jeff

 

Lightning photographs taken with the Lightning Bug.

January 3, 2015
by admin
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How to select a commercial photographer for your business

Every business needs photographs to properly promote itself. They are used in print and online advertising, social media, audio/visual presentations and much more. Photographs convey ideas and illustrate products and services like no other medium can. As the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

But when your business needs photographs, how do you get them? You can take them yourself, or have a friend or coworker do it, but I wouldn’t advise it. Thinking that you can take professional photographs because you have a nice camera is like thinking you could create a Mozart level symphony because you own a piano.

For professional photographs, which is what your business needs, you need to hire a professional photographer.

First, know what you want. This includes what photographs you need and how they will be used. For more detailed information on this, see my article “Do you need photographs for your business? Then you need to know this.” at http://jeffcolburn.com/article-Do-You-Need-Photographs-For-Your-Business-Then-You-Need-To-Know-This.html

Besides knowing how you will use the photographs, you need to ask yourself these questions:

  • What is your budget?
  • What is your deadline?
  • What rights do you need?

Finding a photographer

  • If you’re a small to medium size business, look for a local photographer. Find one who specializes in the type of photography you need. In a small town, the local photographer is probably a jack-of-all-trades and can meet your needs.
  • Talk to other businesses that have used a photographer. Who did they use? Where they easy to work with? Did the photographs look great? Did they stay on budget and schedule? Would they hire them again?
  • Go online and search for photographers. See their website to see their photographs, bio and other information.
  • You can also find photographers here:

Interviewing the photographer

  • If possible, see a print portfolio for the photographer(s) you are considering. It’s always good to see what their photographs look like in print. When you’re looking at the portfolio, and the photographer is explaining every photograph, be careful. A photograph in a portfolio should stand on its own merit and not need explanation.
  • What guarantee do they offer? How much experience do they have? Do they respond quickly to emails and phone calls? If my client didn’t like the photographs I took, I wouldn’t charge them. This only happened once in my career.
  • Who have their recent clients been and who is the contact there? Call several of them to see how well the photographer performed.
  • Ask what problems they have solved for clients.

A few last tips

  • If your photographs have models in them, get a copy of the model release from the photographer. That way, if you need them in the future, you don’t have to hunt down the photographer or the model.
  • Do you need photographs of someplace that’s a distance away from you? Consider hiring a photographer from that area. This will save on fees for transportation, food, lodging, etc.
  • Always have a contract that covers what will be done, what it will cost, when it’s due and what rights you will have.
  • Focus on the photographs the photographer produces and not what equipment he uses.
  • Photographs need to make the customer do what you want them to (buy, try or change) and they must look professional. Cheap photos will make you and your business look cheap.
  • In your contract, state that the photographs are to be exclusive to your company for the time you will be using them. Many photographers place the photographs they take on stock sites, and your competitor may wind up using your photographs. At least, make them exclusive to your industry.
  • If the photographer is too expensive, don’t expect them to drop their prices. No good photographer would, but they may offer more services for the same price. You may receive additional rights, more photographs or maybe a few short video clips.

Give yourself time to find the right photographer to meet your needs. A good photographer will meet your needs, solve problems that arise during a shoot and give you photographs that will help your business to grow and thrive.

Have Fun,
Jeff

December 7, 2014
by admin
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My New and Exciting Photography

There’s something new and exciting with my photography. While I’ll continue to do all the nature and landscape photography that you’re familiar with, I’ve been wanting to do more. I want to create images from my imagination, using both my photography and drawing skills.

I’ve spent the last several months coming up with 4 self-assignment “topics” and roughed out several pieces in each one. These pieces of art will explore some interesting areas, and they will all be limited editions of 10.

Here’s my first creation from my Door series, called “Doorway To Enlightenment-1.” I hope you like it.

Have Fun,
Jeff

Doorway To Enlightenment-1

December 7, 2014
by admin
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Have A Happy, And Slightly Twisted, Holiday Season.

Following are some of my favorite Holiday music videos. You’ll find the entire spectrum from traditional to shall we say, unique. I hope you enjoy them.

There are two new performers this year whose music really brightens up my Holidays.

The first is Lindsey Sterling, an amazing hip-hop violinist with some great moves. Listen to her perform Celtic Carol, What Child Is This and Silent Night.

The other performer is Pentatonix, an acappella group whose voices blend beautifully. List to their versions of Carol Of The Bells and That’s Christmas To Me.

I’ve always been a big fan of Jewel’s music and poetry, and was fortunate enough to see her in concert once. Listen to her amazing voice as she sings Ave Maria.

There’s always someone who thinks Christmas us just a bunch of Bah Humbug. This video is for you. I hope you enjoy Carol of the Old Ones.

My favorite irreverent Christmas song is The 12 Pains Of Christmas. Have a listen.

Karen Carpenter was an amazing singer, and left us all far too soon. Listen to Merry Christmas Darling by The Carpenters.

I’ve always liked Gloria Estefan’s voice and music. I was even a member of the Press when she dedicated her statue to the Wax Museum in Buena Park, California. I have some great pictures of that event too.

Christmas is more than presents and parties. It’s about reaching out to those in need, righting the wrongs in the world and putting the Christmas Spirit in all we do, all year long. In this video you’ll see wrongs that need to be righted, and successes that have been achieved. We can all do something, big or small, to help others. Go out and help others. Hear Silent Night by Gloria Estefan.

Many years ago there was a great Christmas special called “A Claymation Christmas.” It shows the amazing things that can be done with this form of animation. I hope you enjoy these videos, and remember, it’s all done with clay. Rudolf The Red Nosed Reindeer and Joy To The World.

People aren’t the only ones who enjoy the Holiday Season. Animals get into the spirit of Christmas too, look here.

And finally, if you think you have a great light display on your house, check out this, and here.

Have a Great Holiday Season! Party on!!!

Have Fun,
Jeff

November 23, 2014
by admin
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How to survive as a professional photographer

Times have never been harder for professional photographers. They are being attacked on several fronts. The main assault is from:

  • Camera manufacturers – They are making better camera bodies, with more bells and whistles, cheaper every day. I just wish they would make the pro-lenses less expensive.
  • Digital – When an industry goes digital it get eviscerated. Look at the record, movie and TV industries. They still don’t know how to make money on the digital frontier.
  • Amateurs – Those wonderfully talented photographers that shoot for fun. They don’t care if you pay them $1 to use their photo on the cover of a national magazine and don’t have to support themselves with their photographs.
  • Clients – Who want photographs that are ready to use the instant they are made, pay less every day and want unlimited rights to an image for eternity.
  • General attitude – Both providers and consumers now have a mindset of “good enough.” Photographs don’t need to be great, just good enough. High quality professional images aren’t sought out by many buyers, because lower quality and cheaper images will work just fine, thank you.

It’s tough out there, but that’s been the story of people trying to make a living from their creativity as long as there have been creative people. Only now, the Internet lets us all hear about the trials and tribulations of professional photographers.

So what’s a pro-photographer to do? Actually, there are several things they can do to make a living and fight off the evil hordes they face every day.

The first, and most important, thing they have is their imagination. It allows them to shoot photographs in a unique way, creating a “style and look” that is different than other photographers. For example, whenever I see a photograph by Magda Wasiczek http://www.magdawasiczek.pl/ I instantly know it’s one of hers.

Imagination can be expressed by subject matter, lighting, composition, photo manipulation and more. Combine these in your own special way to make unique images that others can’t create.

Creating and marketing new revenue streams is also a great way to express your creativity. I go to Renaissance Faires, yes, in costume. For several years there was a photographer, also in costume, who would take attendees photographs as he walked around. After he took your picture he would drop a leather flap that was covering a bulge at his waist. The back of the flap had print prices on it, and the bulge was a wireless printer. For $10 you could get a 4×5 print of yourself at the faire. I’m guessing that he made $200 a day. Not a lot, but it paid for his, food and gas, and still have some spending money.

He was able to enjoy the faire for free and he promoted himself to people who may want to get more prints later or have him do their family portrait. Of course, he handed out business cards with every print.

Other revenue streams can be found in my ebook, “25 Places To Sell Your Photographs” at www.CreativeCauldron.com

Pro photographers can also do things that amateurs can’t, due to time or money. While an amateur can attend the occasional class, workshop or convention, pros can attend more of them. And pros can attend higher priced ones than amateurs, for the most part, can’t or won’t.

A pro can also gather more knowledge and experience than an amateur who’s tied to a 40+ hour a week job. Those are hours the amateur can’t spend learning about photography or hiking and traveling to hard to reach locations.

The amateur also doesn’t have the extra money to buy studio space, loads of lighting equipment or high-end gear. I really want to hear the amateur trying to explain to their spouse how they have to buy that $5,000 lens. “And honey, I will never sell enough photographs to pay for it, or any of my other equipment. I mean, isn’t this lens more important than getting your transmission replaced? Ouch! Hey, honey that hurt.”

Forget the old way of doing business, stop complaining about digital and amateurs and start forging a new trail in your photography career. The rule of survival is adapt or die.

To get ahead, and stay ahead:

  • Master your craft
  • Harness your imagination
  • Be unique
  • Constantly learn more
  • Create multiple revenue streams, both passive and active

Doing this will keep you going. And when the pendulum swings back, and clients want great photographs again, you will be perfectly positioned to take advantage of this gold mine.

Have Fun,
Jeff