January 4th 2010 - In need of Professional ServicesIf you’re just starting out with the 365 Days Project, then you’re probably figuring out a lot of things… like the fact that it’s hard to compose yourself in the shot when you keep having to go look at the back of the camera. I find that I’ll just settle for whatever I got sometimes because I’m just tired of the trip.

Well as I was shooting my portrait for the night I decided to shoot a little video that might help with that problem. It’s not always the most practical solution, but when you’re in your home studio (which I’ll be until it warms up a little… BRRRR!), this could probably become part of your setup.

Video is below, you know what to do.

PS – There’s a point to the wild hair… you can find the story by clicking on the photo at the top of the post.

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Below is a re-recording of my song “Disconnected” that was recorded COMPLETELY on the iPhone using only the included microphone (you know… the one that is physically attached to the phone).

I used a program called FourTrack by Sonoma Wireworks to record 9 tracks of audio and used their Instant Drummer app to create the drum track. The following tracks were recorded:

  • Lead Vocal
  • Harmony Vocal
  • 2 Acoustic Guitars
  • 2 Overdrive Gtrs
  • Lead Gtr
  • Tremolo Gtr
  • Tamborine

More on the process and the app coming soon, but the basics are that the guitars were an Ibanez Artwood and a Fender Nashville Deluxe Telecaster, the amp was a 1959 Fender Deluxe and it was all recorded in my bedroom and closet. The only tracks that were changed in any way were the vocals (reverb and compression) and the lead gtr got a midrange boost. All the tracks were laid into Sony Vegas and had the levels adjusted. That’s it.

Let me know what you think in the comments. I plan to get more in depth in a future article, but I wanted to put this out there to go along with my iPhone Apps for the Multi-Media Professional series.

I’m stoked! I think I’m going to record an entire record this way!

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With the advent of the smart phone, industrious users have been trying to sqeeze more and more utilities into what has become the Swiss Army knives of mobile technology. This has been met with varying degrees of sucess, but none more successful in my opinin than Apple’s iPhone.

I myself have had the iPhone for a few years now and have found it to be an invaluable tool to my day to day business. If you’ve been on the fence about purchasing this smart phone, I hope the following will help clear the waters a bit.

Let’s start with the installed programs.

Camera/Video

This is pretty obvious, but if you’ve got the iPhone 3Gs you get the added benefit of having a video camera. While it’s not as good as using a dedicated unit, I’ve found the video camera on the iPhone to be pretty decent when provided with adequate light. The 3Gs captures video at 640×480 in the quicktime format and captures surprisingly good audio.

In addition to shooting video, it allows you to then trim the video down and upload it to facebook, flickr, YouTube etc. without losing your original file. I’ve found this extremely useful for shooting behind the scenes video when I couldn’t use my Canon 5D. I’ve even used it as a second camera to mix in with my 5D footage for behind the scenes work.

Photo/Video Storage

When properly synced with iTunes, the iPhone will store photos and videos for playback anywhere. I find it extremely useful for showing clients examples of my work in the field. I’ve also found it helpful to have clients send me examples that I can keep on had for reference. 

Here’s a trick to keep them all organized:

Take all the photos/videos that you want on your iPhone and copy them into a folder on your harddrive somewhere. Arrange them into folders and then in the sync settings iTunes, specify that folder as the folder to sync your photos from. Viola! You will now have them all neatly organized.

Voice Memos


This app remained dormant on my phone for a long time. I really didn’t consider the app capable of anything more than just recording a lecture or making grocery notes, but while out on a video shoot we had need for a scratch audio track and decided that Voice Memos would do in a pinch. I was quite surprised to find that the resulting audio was actually quite usable. I’ve since used it for scratch audio work as well as (believe it or not) the actual voice over work for a broadcast commercial. The best part is that when you’re done recording you can simply email the file to yourself for use in your favorite editing program.

Maps

I’m quite attached to my Garmin GPS and have often wondered how I got along without it before, but it doesn’t compare to being able to simply type the name of a business into the maps app and have it pull up not only the location and directions, but the phone number and web address. The iPhone has given me the appearance of being a lot more competent than I really am sometimes.

When location scouting, you can save the location by simply tapping the locate button on the bottom left and then dropping a pin  by tapping the options key on the bottom right. You can then save this location in your bookmarks or send it  to someone else via email or MMS.

Coming up…

Next time we’ll talk about some of my favorite paid apps, but until then I hope I’ve given you a little insight into some of the advantages of using the iPhone with your workflow. If you have a favorite app, please let me know if the comments below.

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May 20th 2008 - The Origin of 365

The Origin

On January 1st, 2006 I began work on a little project that would document my year in photos and short blog entries. I created a photo set on flickr and named it the “365 Day Visual Diary”. Day after day I would take a self portrait accompanied by a short description of my day.

The idea had come from a my friend Anna Lognion who had attempted to do a similar project with Polaroid photos. Every year I try to come up with some New Years resolutions that will in the end produce something creative that I can look back on to remember that year by. Previous years were marked with records I either wrote or produced as well as a feature film that I wrote and directed over the course of a year. After Hurricane Katrina my life was changing on a daily basis and when the new year came around I decided that Anna’s idea should be something that I should attempt myself.

So I began on January 1st with photo of my daughter and I enjoying a ride on my dad’s 4 wheeler while visiting them on Christmas vacation. After 6 months or so I looked back to see just how much happens during a year and how it shapes your near future. There were events ranging from the tragic to the delightful. A friend/cast member of my film “Songs About Your Girlfriend” died in a car accident, my Sister got married, got my film pressed into DVD’s, my Grandmother passed away, got a new job and moved to Montgomery Alabama… the list goes on.

Others start to get involved

Along the way I got lots of encouraging words and had begun to draw a daily audience. Some left comments and others just checked in to see what I was up to. Over the course of the year I had lots of people comment on how they’d like to do the same thing. One of those people was Chris Maverick. In August of 2006, Chris left me a comment to say:

“This may be the greatest idea ever. I am tempted to steal it from you. kinda weird starting so late in the year.”

Soon after that he left me a comment to say:

“I did decide to steal it, starting today. Hope you don’t mind. Thank you for the idea. It should be an interesting experiment.”

I was kind of excited to hear that someone else might also join me in the project. On August 12th he began his first entry and in the description for his photo set he wrote:
June 17th 2006

“So while browsing flickr, I ran across this photo by Stephen Poff. I liked it and then started looking at his photostream and then realized that since the 1st of this year he has taken a self-portrait every day and hopes to do the same every day for a year. I immediately decided that I had to do the same. 

If you would like to try this project as well, there is now a flickr pool called 365 days for you to share your efforts.

Needless to say I was stoked. Four years later and 16,500 people strong, the idea has become something of a phenomenon.

Personal Growth

February 17 2006When I began the project it was done in a simple documentary style, but over time I began to get a little bored with the project and in an effort to keep my interest, I began to try more creative things. At first it was in camera tricks that I could accomplish without the use of anything other than just my camera and a little time, the first of which was long exposures. I soon wanted to do even longer exposures and bought a remote shutter release. This led to a series of night photos that I cherish to this day.

March 4th 2006 "Hard to Bluff"After that I began to experiment with all kinds of creative options from double exposures to more complicated Photoshop composites.

I developed several skills during this first year, but the most important was the ability to tell a story with my photos. Every day was a new story and I did my best to tell that story of that day through the photo.

After taking a year off from the project I decided to take another stab at the project in 2008. In addition to the project I teamed up with fellow 365er Chris Maverick to do a weekly podcast on the project. My goal for the year was to make every day’s photo as creative as I could. The first year had taught me that the best way to learn anything in photography was to learn it on yourself first. You will always be your most patient subject… and you’re always available!

Why you should do this

So this is my message to you. I’ve learned more over the course of this project, by just taking a photo every day, than I ever did while trying to working under the deadlines of the newpapers and the magazines that I shot for. I wasn’t working under a creative director or for a client, it was personal work that allowed me to stretch my wings creatively and to learn at my own pace. Others began to notice the work I was doing and now wanted to hire me to shoot the brand of photography that I had despareately wanted to shoot all along.

So if you’re looking to get serious about your craft, why not challenge yourself to a photo a day with the only model that’s always available and as passionate as you are about it… yourself! 

Tips on Self-Portraits

Over the course of my project I’ve had lots of questions about how I get various shots. Here are my list of things that might help.

1. Get a tripod – I see a lot of photos from arms length. Holding the camera yourself and aiming it back at you is not a bad idea, but you certainly don’t want 365 days of this kind of photo. A tripod can be a great friend. And for you guys with the little point an shoot kind, it can be as simple as the type that you can attach to your water bottle. Take a look at Wal-Mart’s photo department. It’s a great little tool.

2. Get in focus – It’s not always easy to get a photo in focus when you’re not behind the camera. I had several tactics, but the one I used most often was to set up a microphone or light stand where I was going to be standing/sitting and then focus on that. Otherwise, if I had a friend or family member nearby, I would ask them to focus on me. Another easy solution is to stand in a pre-defined spot with your camera and focus on the head of your tripod.

3. Get used to your timer – When taking self-portraits you have to know how to use your timer. Pretty much every camera from little point and shoots to DSLR’s have them. Break out the manual and figure it out.

4. Light your photos when possble -It’s not always possible, but try to avoid having all your shots lit by the little pop up flash on your camera. Try using continuous light sources by arranging to have yourself standing under/near them. For those of you with hotshoe flashes, try bouncing them off the ceiling or wall to get a more pleasing photo. And for those of you with more equipment, you know what to do.

5. Get creative – The bathroom mirror shot was always a good standby for me, but when you’re doing a project that spans this amount of time, the only way to keep yourself interested for that long is to get creative and try to tell stories with your photos. Try some long exposures, or some cool Photoshop tricks.

6. Join the 365 Days group on Flickr. There are a lot of great resources in the forum and it’s the general dumping ground for all of your photos.

In Conclusion

I had a lot of fun doing this project and met a lot of great people during the process. The things I’ve learned about myself and others has given me a greater understanding of everything from photography to psychology. I look forward to seeing what the seeds I’ve sown will grow and hope all of you can gain something from doing your own 365 Days Project.

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Light Writing

December 26, 2009 | Category: Video, tutorials | 4 Comments

November 24th 2008 - Graffiti
Subjects that aren’t always predictable make photography fun and challenging. You do your best to arrange the lighting, pose your subject, but there are always variables that make every frame different. Light writing is one of those subjects.

If you’ve got a few minutes to spare, a small colored light source and a remote shutter release cable, you can make some surprisingly fun photos.

The principals of light writing are as follows:

Find yourself a dark area to work in

This can be a dark room at night, or even the great outdoors. All that really matters is that you can leave your shutter open for long enough to write or draw without the ambient light contaminating your image.

Set your working aperture, ISO and shutter speed

November 25th 2008 - From the Heart of the Black SoulI like to work at least around f8 so that I have enough depth of field to work with. I then set my ISO at 100 to keep the noise low and also to keep any stray ambient to a minimum. As for the shutter speed, the best case scenario is that you have it set to bulb and use a remote shutter release cable to trigger and lock the shutter open. If you do not have a cable release, simply set the shutter speed to it’s longest setting (usually around 30 seconds) and set your timer.

Focus

Mark the spot where you’ll be standing and with camera in hand stand in that spot and focus on the tripod. Lock the focus on your lens and then place the camera on your tripod.

Turn the lights off and have fun

With our flashlight or penlight in hand, trigger the shutter and then step in  the shot. When the shutter trips, turn the light on and begin writing with the light facing the camera.

Tips

June 27th 2008 - My Heart Beats for Her1. Try multiple lights with different colors.

2. To find your focus spot in the dark, try some glow in the dark material on the floor.

3. Instead of turning your flashlight on and off before and after or between words, try instead to cover the light with your hand.

4. If you’re writing words backwards and are having trouble getting it right, face away from the camera and turn the light back towards the camera… you can then write normally.

Getting more creative

But what if you want to add yourself or a friend into the photo without them showing up as a big blur? Well then it becomes a little more complicated.

The following video will show you how add an off camera flash and a cheap wireless trigger to spice up your light writing shots.

 

If you’ve got some interesting light writing shots, be sure to leave me some links in the comments.

Have fun!

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Night Photography

December 23, 2009 | Category: tutorials | Leave a Comment

In 2008, in addition to my 365 Days project, I also did a weekly podcast where we created quite a few photography tutorials. You can find some of them over on the YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/the365daysproject. My favorite is probably the one I did on night photography.

While doing my 2006 365 Days Project I was working at a newspaper and got off late at nights. Since everyone was usually asleep at the house, I decided to go out and shoot around post-Katrina Pascagoula, MS. Below are a few shots from that project as well as an informative video on how I achieved these results.

If you’re interested in seeing more from this series, view the rest of my night photography set on flickr.

Star Trails on the Pascagoula River

February 19th 2006

Pascagoula Pier at Night

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Below are some of the photos that I was commissioned to shoot for the Alabama Shakespeare Festival’s upcoming production of “All’s Well That Ends Well”. Thought I’d throw in a lighting diagram and video to boot. Enjoy!

Alls Well lo res

alls well version 2 lo res

LightingSetup

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A Christmas Story

December 13, 2009 | Category: Behind The Scenes | 1 Comment

full cast and crew Sunday Clarissa and I headed over to the Alabama Shakespeare Festival to see an adaptation of Jean Shepard’s A Christmas story. During the fall I shot a couple of portraits for ASF’s upcoming series Civil War series and since then I’ve been commisioned to shoot future productions as well as advanced photography for use in marketing.

After the show I got to spend time with the cast and crew recreating 12 iconic moments from the play. The cast and crew was a lot of fun to work with and since the lighting was already all worked out, the pressure was pretty low.

While jobs like this are not always the most rewarding from the perspective of creating lasting pieces of art, they more than make up for it by allowing me to enjoy the live performances. 

The show will continue through December 24th, tickets can be purchased at http://www.asf.net.

Below are some of the highlights. Enjoy!

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Photo Galleries Now Live!

December 10, 2009 | Category: Uncategorized | Leave a Comment

webgallery for blog

I’ve been limping along for quite a while without a proper website to send folks to see my work. Well, tonight I just took one more step closer to rectifiying the situation.

I currently have a talented web group working on an official look for my site, but in the mean time I have used the free online flash website builder over at http://www.wix.com to create an gallery for my work. Please take a moment to look it over and let me know if anything’s not working properly. I’ll be adding more photos soon!

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lwt-holiday-on-gray-lo-res

LWT in '08

Last night the agency that I work for had their annual Christmas party where for the second year in a row, they had me shoot a group photo (that’s last years photo at the right). I’m not a big fan of lining people up against the wall and posing them according to height. While it’s traditionally sound, it’s not what I like to do.

When I started here at the agency, I quickly became aware of the office obsession with the AMC drama Mad Men. The show takes place in a 60′s era ad agency and of course it appeals to our group for the obvious reasons. So for this years photo I thought I’d shoot them in a style similar to an advertisement that would be used for an entertainment magazine spread.

The party was to take place at a local restaurant called Chop House. So I went by the week before to scout out the place and found it to be a very nice venue with several picturesque opporttunities, but only one that would suit our space requirements. The main dining room was fairly open but had mirrors surrounding three of the four walls. Luckily that wasn’t a problem as the area that wasn’t covered had a long section of booth style seating that curved around nicely on the right side. It also had some nice little lamps above and frosted glass along the top. I’d found my spot.

holiday-lighting-1I showed up a few hours early and got everything pre-lit while also trying to imagine Everyone’s position. This would be my toughest challenge. I placed an Alien Bees B800 with a large soft box on the left hand side fairly close to the scene, an AB800 bounced into a large silver umbrella at camera right pretty far back in the room just to throw a bit of fill back in there, an AB800 high behind the subjects at camera right for separation and a Canon 430ex with a diffuser cap and a  green gel behind the booth to light up the frosted glass. I was going to be shooting 3-4 photos with the plan to combine them into one large piece, so while this would be my first set up, I knew the lighting would change slightly with each photo. After working out the details I put everything back out of the way.

Soon the party started and everyone drank and ate. This was fine by me since I wanted the scene to feel lived in. I got a little nervous as people got restless and the energy of the evening began to wane. When I felt everyone was done with dinner I grabbed my lights and arranged them back into position.

One of the hardest things about doing a photo like this is that no one can quite see what’s in your head and sometimes you encounter opposition to what you’re having them do. The best thing to do is just keep your cool and continue to assure your subjects that your intention is to make them look good. Luckily this group was familiar with my body of work and I got very little resistance. Moving from right to left, I shot the first photo with no problem, but soon found that I was having to chase down folks, I knew I had to hurry. I quickly moved the Canon 430ex over from it’s original position to just behind the glass directly in front of me. holiday-lighting-2I soon had what I wanted from this group and then moved on to the last photo. On the last photo I encountered a problem I had not forseen. the group was gettings smaller in the frame and need a visual element to draw the eye back in so I added a couple of tables in an “L” shape back towards the camera. I also had to re-arrange the lighting. I wanted it to feel like there was a singular light source in the center of the room so at this point I moved the Softbox to camera left and pointed it back at camera right. I also moved the separation light back to the left hand side. Once I had everyone positioned, I then positioned myself in the shot and had a co-worker, Chris Redding, fire off the last shot.

It’s at this point that I feel like I need to mention how unsure I was of just what I had. I’d been working so fast and didn’t have time to inspect every shot carefully before moving on. This is the peril of shooting this many people… I knew I would lose thier attention fast. But after getting home and reviewing the shots, I found that I was very happy with the outcome. I spent a couple of hours piecing the photos together so that the group would be able to see the results in the morning.

In the end the composition turned out to be a big hit and the principals at the agency were very happy with the way it came out. I was told that I had topped my photo from last year, and that that was no easy task considering how much they like the previous photo.

The only bad thing about a photo this wide is that it’s so hard to appreciate on the computer. It really needs to be seen much larger. So, in an attempt o hilight some of the details, I’ve broken the photos up so that you could see them larger. Be sure to click the photo at the top of the post to see the entire thing larger.

lwt-holiday-photo-1

lwt-holiday-photo-2

lwt-holiday-photo-3

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