Friday, November 30, 2007

New Lifestyle, Sports and Nature Portfolios

Up until now, I have been using Photoshelter to host all my image galleries, including my Portfolio. While my Photoshelter galleries are exactly what I want for my stock photo licensing, they aren't the best platform for viewing my portfolio. The combo of caption, keywords, licensing info, etc created a bit of a cluttered area to showcase my best work, so I decided to fix that by adding 3 flash based portfolio slideshows...

Mountain Biking Lifestyle Photo

You can find my new Lifestyle, Sports and Nature Portfolios HERE. You'll see some new work, as well as some old classics in there. The portfolios are also available from almost anywhere on my site by clicking "Portfolio" at the top of the page, as well as using the "My Portfolio" link on any blog page. Enjoy! Comments welcome, post 'em below...

Cheers, Josh

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Non-Profits & Pro Bono Work

I often get requests from people asking if am able to donate my images, or take an assignment at a discount for a good cause, usually from a non-profit group or the like. I like helping others, and do my part to help where and when I can, but this does not mean that I give away my images for free every time I'm asked.

This is also not to say that I don't do Pro Bono work, or that I don't rcommend it, because I do. What I'm saying is you should be the one that decides to call up the organization or your choice, that you feel strongly about, and offer your services to them then.

When I get a request from someone asking me to donate my images, I will take a few things into account. The first is whether I personally believe in what this particular group is doing, and what they stand for. If I don't, I stop right there. No point in doing something for free for someone or something you don't believe in.

If I do like what they do, things can become a little trickier. One thing many people don't realize is that not all "Non-Profits" are charities. In fact, most Non-Profit organizations are not charities, they are businesses, and in order to maintain their tax status cannot post a profit. They have employees that get paid a salary and benefits, they pay for office supplies & company vehicles, they pay their rent, phone, hydro, and water bills, and pay for extravagant get-togethers to thank their supporters. With all this, for some reason, they never seem to want to pay for photographs.

When get asked if I will trade an image (or ten) in exchange for a photo credit or website link, the first thing I usually will try to find out is if the person calling me is a paid employee of this organization. If their answer is yes, the odds of getting anything out of me for free just dropped to nil... What do you think that employee would say if their boss asked them to work for free for a week as a donation to the organization? I am much more likely to work at a discounted rate, or for free if the person calling me is donating their time and energy too.

Do you think someone from this organization would consider calling up their landlord to ask them to donate a months rent in exchange for a link on their website? How about the local office supply store to see if they can donate their copy paper and toner? Maybe Petro-Canada would like to give them free gas for the company vehicle? And while they're at it, maybe their insurance company will insure them for free too, since they're a "Non-Profit". Not likely, so why should photographers?

For those of you reading this that are photographers, especially those of you that are new to the business, do yourself a favour and get over the thrill of being asked to use your images. The fact that someone is asking to use your photo for free usually means that they either a) don't value what you do and the talent you bring, or b) have been turned down by other photographers before you that realized the value of their own work. On a rare occasion they are truly ignorant, and have no idea what we photographers do what we can bring to a project. In this case, try to educate them, let them know what you do, what you charge and why. I highly recommend a book by John Harrington, Best Business Practices for Photographers, it will get you well on your way in the business of photograhy, and has a great section covering this topic. Then check out his blog on the business of being a photographer.

Photography is a business, just like anything else. Profit is not a bad thing. It makes the world go 'round. Non-Profits sometimes forget that profit is how people can afford to make donations to them. Profit is what puts food on my table, and if you want to make it in this business, make sure you're making a profit too. And once you've made a profit, call up the organization of your choosing and give some back.

Cheers, Josh

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

New Work 11-14-2007

Just a quick hit to show some new work I produced a couple of weekends ago.

Woman Trail Running Victoria BC

As I mentioned in my previous post Canadian Rockies Photos, I have set out to pursue a more commercial spin to my photography, with the goal of expanding into that part of the photography market. I recently purchased a lighting kit geared towards location work to help with that goal, and I am currently putting it through the paces and seeing how it works out. Lighting enables you to work through less-than-ideal lighting situations by controlling the light, which is key when you can't wait out for the best natural light, such as on a commercial job where budget and time constraints sometimes do not allow waiting a day or two. Even with great natural light, additional lighting can be a good tool to utilize.

For those of you interested in my gear, and the techniques I use when shooting, make sure to check back soon as I will be blogging about my lighting kit. Better yet, Subscibe to my Blog Feed and get notified as soon as I update my blog! These are some of my first images using my location lighting kit.

Here are a few more of my favourites from that weekend:

Woman Trail Running Victoria BC
Woman Trail Running Victoria BC
Woman Trail Running Victoria BC
Woman Trail Running Victoria BC
Woman Trail Running Victoria BC

Thanks for dropping by, hope you enjoyed! Comments? Post 'em below.

Cheers, Josh

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Blog Basics: Josh's Blog 101

I thought I'd give all of my readers a quick overview of my blog, to ensure no one is missing some of the cool features and interactivity of my blog. I'll start with the basics for you:

1) What is a Blog? - A Blog (short for weblog) is a website, or a portion of a website where a person (a.k.a. a "Blogger") will write a "Post" about a topic that interests them. In my case, I'll be posting about photography related topics, like photographic gear (See my posts Waterproof Bags for Outdoor & Kayaking Photography and Mac vs PC), my own photography (see Prairie Light and Canadian Rockies Photos) and the photography industry.

2) How does a Blog work? - A blog is interactive. The blogger writes a post, and the reader reads the post, and then may comment on the post, pose a question to the blogger, etc. The more you put in, the more you get out. Join in. Learn. Explore. See the link(s) at the bottom of each post where it says "Comments". Click and add yours.

3) What makes blogs so special? - One of the best things about a blog is the ability to be notified when a blogger writes and publishes a new post. This is accomplished by the use of "Feeds" (a.k.a. "RSS Feeds" "RSS" etc). Blogs, and other news sites often publish feeds that viewers can "Subscribe" to. Once a viewer has subscribed, they will be notified when a new post is published. There are two ways for you to be notified, depending on your preference, and the options available from the site or blog you would like to subscribe to.

Option 1: Subscribe to the feed in your "RSS Reader" of choice. RSS Readers are programs, or websites that monitor feeds you've subscribed to, and alert you when a new post has been published. Here are links to some popular web-based RSS Readers:

Google Reader
Yahoo Reader

There are lots more than this, but these will get you started.

Option 2: Subscribe with software on your computer, usually RSS capable web browsers, like Apple's Safari which is also available for you poor Windows users (see an interesting article on using Safari for RSS feeds Here), or Mozilla's Firefox. Microsoft's Internet Explorer also has RSS available in the new version 7, but do yourself a favour and ditch IE for something a little more "21st Century", like the browsers listed above.

If this has you all confused, not to worry. This YouTube video by Lee LeFever will straighten you out in no time:

Now that you're RSS savvy, why not Subscibe to the Josh McCulloch Blog Feed? And for those of you that still think this Web 2.0 stuff is all hogwash, just pop your e-mail address into the form on the top right of this screen and click "Subscribe". New posts will be delivered straight into your e-mail inbox, and you can opt-out whenever you want to, Spam Free!

4) Other Cool Stuff on my Blog - Make sure to check out my Portfolio, and Published Work, available from the links on the right side of this page, and the rest of my site with the links available from the top off all the pages on my site.

Lastly, if you come across a post on my blog you think someone you know would enjoy, click the "Email this" link at the bottom of the post and pass it along!

Happy Blogging!

Cheers, Josh

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Thursday, November 8, 2007

Waterproof Bags for Outdoor & Kayaking Photography

As I mentioned in one of my previous posts Location Laptop Case, I travel a lot with my photography, and being primarily an outdoor photographer, much of my time is spent outside (really?!). Additionally, living on the west coast of Canada I am predisposed to being out in some of the worst possible weather, year round.

As some of you are aware, and much to my wife's dismay, I am a gear nerd connoisseur. Few things get me more excited than checking out the latest offerings from Apple or Nikon, and even things as seemingly boring as camera bags get me all fired up. I am always on the hunt for an easier, lighter, better, faster, smarter, more protective way to carry my gear. Generally speaking, camera bags fall into one of two categories. Convenient or Protective. I have yet to find a bag from a photographic company that covers both categories, which seems baffling to me. Not that I have the answer, but if they can put a man on the moon...

One company, totally unrelated to the photographic industry, seems to be bridging that gap for me.

Last year my friend Alex Matthews (who writes articles for many fine kayaking publications, and I shoot with on assignments from time to time), told me about waterproof bags from a company called Watershed. Watershed makes a wide range of bags, from duffles bags to backpacks, and even gun cases (yee-haw!). Their smaller duffles and backpacks have become my go-to solution whenever I am heading out into wet weather, or onto the water to shoot watersports.

Firstly, let me say that these bags are absolutely waterproof (not just dunk-proof). Last year I was out shooting kayaking on the Cowichan River in November for a local tour tour company Kindred Spirit Kayaking. I was paddling in an open top inflatable kayak with my gear in a small Watershed duffle strapped between my knees. Though I didn't flip, I was regularly swamped as I paddled through rough water, and this bag was submerged numerous times that day. This past summer I was shooting sea kayaking out in Clayoquot Sound near Tofino, BC for another client and local tour company Blue Planet Kayaking. I had some of my gear in a small Watershed duffle in the cockpit with me, and the rest in a slightly larger Watershed duffle strapped to the deck in front of me, completely exposed to the elements. The result both times? Dry gear. Here is one of their bags in action on Vargas Island this summer:

Watershed Drybags
(Full Disclosure: I recently licensed 2 images to Watershed, including this one shown here. However, I was a user and a big fan long before they became a client!)

The Watershed bags waterproofing comes from the use of an advanced Ziploc-like closure system. There are 5 interlocking rubber ribs that seal the bag completely, keeping out sand, dust, water and more. As long as you make sure to go over the seal twice with your fingers, you should be good to go. Unlike roll-top drybags (very common in the kayaking world) they are not restricted to having the bag filled completely to keep the closure working properly and water out. A few other nice features are the multiple reinforced lash points for strapping down your bag, solid webbing carry handles, and fabric coated with polyurethane instead of enivironmentally unfriendly & toxic PVC like most other bags. Here is a detail of the opening with instructions:

Watershed Drybags

Watershed makes 4 bags that I think will be of particular appeal to photographers. First are their small backpacks, specifically the Big Creek, and the Animas. They are 20 and 54 liters in volume respectively, and have removeable shoulder straps and waistbelts if you need to stow them. Second are their small duffle bags, specifically the Ocoee and Chattooga which are 15 and 30 liters respectively. These two duffles work well separately for small jobs, or together for larger shoots or longer trips. They also have longer opening than the backpacks, and as such I use them whenever I don't have to carry my gear a long way. I have also started using my Chattooga around town to carry my portable lighting kit. I can fit 2 compact light stands, umbrella swivels, 3 SB-24 flashes, Pocket Wizards, clamps, various snoots, grids, gobos and gels inside this bag with room to spare. I plan to use this setup for most of my shooting this winter, especially out in the snow shooting skiing and lifestyle, so I can drop my bag in the snow and not need to worry about it getting damp.

Another nice feature is the optional liner that is available for all sizes of their duffle bags. I have liners for both my Ocoee and Chattooga. The liners are nylon shelled, foam padded, and soft fleece lined. They also have their own carry handles so you can remove them with your gear still inside for easy transport. When shooting paddling and other watersports, I will take my bags with the padded liners, and leave all other camera bags/protectors at home, with the exception of cases for individual lenses, and RoadWired R.A.P.S. wraps for my flashes and other small fragile items. While you certainly can't be tossing your gear around, it will absorb most impacts, and for me the flexibility of an easy to access, supple, waterproof bag outweigh the lack of high-impact protection. Here are a couple of the bags, with the padded liners:

Watershed Drybags

If you spend much time shooting in wet weather, give these bags a hard look, I think you'll be as pleased with them as I am.

Cheers, Josh

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