How to shoot? http://www.howtoshot.com Some answers to my everyday photo trouble question... Tue, 22 May 2018 03:22:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.23 Bounce flash photography and dark ceilings http://www.howtoshot.com/11926/bounce-flash-photography-and-dark-ceilings/ http://www.howtoshot.com/11926/bounce-flash-photography-and-dark-ceilings/#comments Tue, 22 May 2018 03:22:02 +0000 https://neilvn.com/tangents/?p=45213 Bounce flash photography and dark ceilings With the tutorials here on how to bounce flash, the questions inevitably come up – what if there is nothing to bounce your flash off? What if there are dark ceilings? Well, these limitations do affect how I use flash at events – but I still work according to a Read more inside...

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Bounce flash photography and dark ceilings

With the tutorials here on how to bounce flash, the questions inevitably come up – what if there is nothing to bounce your flash off? What if there are dark ceilings? Well, these limitations do affect how I use flash at events – but I still work according to a few set guidelines that give me the best results with bounce flash.

I bounce my flash into the direction that I want to come from, regardless of whether there is a white wall or ceiling. It really is all about the Direction of Light.

I also shy away from using any of the on-camera plastic diffusers or flash modifiers. I rarely use any other light modifier than the Black Foamie Thing.

These are topics we have discussed before:
– Bounce flash off a dark ceiling
– Wedding reception lighting with one flash

Now, there are times when I have to resort to off-camera flash to help augment the on-camera flash, and sometimes when I have to rely on just the off-camera flashes to be able to capture the event. Difficult venues where on-camera bounce flash just isn’t plausible.

This recent wedding took place in a venue with a wooden ceiling – but worse than that, there were wooden beams which really didn’t reflect much light … and still, my first approach is to see how on-camera bounce flash would work.

You can see how the beams here would create deeper areas where the light just isn’t reflected when you bounce flash. In the background, and to the right, you can see that there were strips of white areas to the ceiling. This just complicated things.

With times like these, I revert to manual bounce flash, rather than the customary way of using TTL bounce flash. The TTL exposure is too erratic in this scenario – I suspect that so little of the pre-flash is returned (that the camera uses to determine TTL flash exposure), that the camera just can’t give a proper TTL exposure. It was the case here with the Profoto A1 flash (B&H / Amazon) that I was using.

I ended up using full manual power on the flash to be able to get f/3.2 – f/3.5 @ 3200 ISO here when bouncing off the wooden part of the ceiling. When I moved to where the flash would bounce off the white part of the ceiling, the exposure would then completely blow out. There TTL flash would make it easier again.

This is where the Profoto A1 flash (B&H / Amazon) came in really handy. Not only does it have a bit more power than the regular top-end speedlights, what helped me was how easy it is to flip between manual flash and TTL flash. Just the slider switch on the side. No need to go into the menu to toggle the setting. Just slide the switch up or down to either TTL or manual flash, depending on where I was in the reception room.

This did mean that I had to continually check where I was bouncing my flash – but this has become second nature, since I am always considering the direction my light has to come from.

The Profoto A1 is also superb in allowing me to repeatedly fire full bursts of flash without the flash overheating.

Here are a few more of the results:

I did use the  Black Foamie Thing here as my on-camera flash modifier. Not so much because it would control the direction of my flash, but to not blitz people in the eyes with such a strong beam of light.

 

Photo gear used during this photo session

 


On-Camera Flash Photography

On-Camera Flash Photography – revised edition

This book is explains a cohesive and thorough approach to getting the best from your on-camera speedlight.

Particular care was taken to present it all with a logical flow that will help any photographer attain a better understanding of flash photography.

You can either purchase a copy via Amazon USA and Amazon UK, or can be ordered through Barnes & Nobles and other bookstores. The book is also available on the Apple iBook Store, as well as Amazon Kindle. Also check out the Amazon Kindle store.

Learn more about how the cover image was shot.


 

Summary

In a sense there is nothing new here about bouncing your flash – rather it is an affirmation that keeping to specific ways of approaching lighting, gives a look that is consistent with the style of photography that clients see on my website. That becomes important – creating a look that clients can expect when I photograph their events. Also, bounce flash photograph is really easy – and give superb results if applied with some thought … even when it seems near-impossible.

 

Related articles

 

Video tutorials to help you with flash photography

If you like learning by seeing best, then these video tutorials will help you with understanding flash photography techniques and concepts. While not quite hands-on, this is as close as we can get to personal instruction. Check out these and other video tutorials and online photography workshops.


 

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I love it when the media picks up one of our public relations photos for the Theatre and does a beautiful job showcasing it. http://www.howtoshot.com/11920/i-love-it-when-the-media-picks-up-one-of-our-public-relations-photos-for-the-theatre-and-does-a-beautiful-job-showcasing-it/ http://www.howtoshot.com/11920/i-love-it-when-the-media-picks-up-one-of-our-public-relations-photos-for-the-theatre-and-does-a-beautiful-job-showcasing-it/#comments Thu, 17 May 2018 15:25:00 +0000 http://www.howtoshot.com/?guid=bc3fbfdcc4a16f0643520ce72c1584d1 https://www.blacktexasmag.com/home-1/2018/5/14/zach-theatre-announces-cast-for-sunday-in-the-park-with-george

This shot is one of the promotional images we did two weeks ago for Zach Theatre's upcoming production of Sundays in the Park with George. 

I used Aputure LightStorm LEDs to light everything because we also had a video crew shooting some behind the scenes stuff and low powered modeling light alone would have made the video crews' job a nightmare.

If you are in Austin this production promises to be really stellar. We'll be shooting the dress rehearsal and tech rehearsal the week after next.

Fun to see work published all over the place... still.
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An Image I made back in 2009 with a Leaf A7i medium format digital camera. It’s time to make a print…. http://www.howtoshot.com/11921/an-image-i-made-back-in-2009-with-a-leaf-a7i-medium-format-digital-camera-its-time-to-make-a-print/ http://www.howtoshot.com/11921/an-image-i-made-back-in-2009-with-a-leaf-a7i-medium-format-digital-camera-its-time-to-make-a-print/#comments Wed, 16 May 2018 21:43:00 +0000 http://www.howtoshot.com/?guid=e383ce9fb839b2423a13b2b6df7c3514
This is Ben ten years ago. 
Leaf sent me an Aptus A7i, 40 Megapixel camera
to test and I started photographing everyone in sight.

Like all other nerds I can't keep from comparing things. In my world some of the most fun and easiest things to compare are the files from various cameras. When I acquired a Nikon D800e and a D800(vanilla) I first shot a bunch of test frames and then I sat down in front of the computer and started to compare the files from the medium format cameras I've shot over the years, wondering how they would stand up to the Nikons. I'm not sure I can see a real difference and I'm not sure that, if I saw a difference, it would be anything more than a visual placebo. Then, of course, I would have to figure out how much difference lenses make in the overall appraisal of image quality in a given set of photos. 

At their lowest ISO settings I think I prefer the older, medium format files but it's a difference that's so minute that even a slight discrepancy in focusing would be enough to massively skew the results. And therein lies the whole problem with hobbyists and professionals who embark on trying to test and judge the differences between cameras. Tony Northrup once did a video in which he talked about this subject and noted that even the give of a wooden floor beneath a solid tripod might me enough to grossly affect the results of any rigorous test. A slight focus shift. Differences in temperatures between tests. And I think it's a fool's errand to do any sort of test of cameras if you must use different lenses for each format or each model. 

Having "tested" and written about three different medium format cameras in the past, and having compared those files with newer files from the D800, D800e and my old D810 convinces me that using any of those cameras without the assistance of tripod, or at least the image freezing aid of a short duration electronic flash, lowers the effective resolution by enough of a percentage that these 36 and 40 megapixel cameras are then reduced to competing with their 24 megapixels competitors when it comes to how the photographs look in various media and how resolution is experienced.

As to lenses I think the only directly comparable testing situation is one where a tester only compares results from two cameras that share the same lens mount. In that way the same lens can be used during each test. If each camera is focus at high magnification, in live view, with all other parameters being tightly controlled then we can tell something about the differences between two models or different generations. 

When it comes to lenses I think the scores and DXOMark are more interesting than the scores they apply to cameras. I was comparing several 50mm lenses on their site with all lenses tested on a D800e. Their lens tests show the actual lens resolution on the sensor, in terms of megapixels, versus what one would expect from the full resolution of the sensor. Using the Nikon D800e as a test base I compared the Nikon 58mm f1.4G lens with the Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art lens. The Nikon lens allows a user to take advantage of only 25 megapixels of actual resolution. The Sigma lens scrapes out 35 of the 36 possible megapixels of resolution that the camera can deliver. 

Now, more than every, it seems that cherry-picking your lenses can make a drastic difference leveraging the image quality and performance you pay for in today's state of the art cameras. And, you can imagine, that if a testing site uses a perfect lens on one brand's camera and a similar but less perfect lens on a competitor's brand, that the stated results in the review would be much, much different. But how much at fault is the sensor and how much degradation is the lens really responsible for?

I remember one site that used the Sigma 70mm f2.8 Macro lens for every camera test. They invested in hand-picked and tested units of the same lens in order to eliminate as many variables as they could. To not test this way is tantamount to just throwing your hands up and declaring, "It's all subjective!"

I wonder if the folks at the bigger test sites think about things like this or whether they interpret the results they get from a myriad of different lenses through the lens of their own preferences. 

But here are my thoughts about the differences between the MF and the Vintage Nikon 36 megapixel full frame bodies: In stringent test I'd probably select the images from the MF cameras as slightly superior, but this would only apply at base ISOs and at optimum apertures, and each test would need to be rigorously vetted and repeated a number of times in order to null out frame by frame anomalies. I do remember that the image of Ben (above) was shot with a $7,500 Schneider 180mm APO lens. I can only assume that was a big "assist" to the file quality. My 85mm Nikons aren't quite in that class but the images I've taken lately with the Sigma Art lens (50mm) seem to rival the pricier glass. 

After looking at a bunch of work, printed and otherwise, I'm going to say I'd be happy with any of the full frame, 24 megapixel cameras. In the sizes most of us actually work in the differences between the 24 and 36 (or even 40) megapixel files will only show up in the most critical and disciplined sort of work. 

A bit of news. I'm leaving tomorrow afternoon for New York to watch my kiddo graduate from college. He texted me this afternoon to let me know how the semester turned out and I'm very happy to say that he is on the Dean's List for the seventh consecutive semester and will be graduating on Saturday Magna Cum Laude. 

We'll have a busy schedule as there are dinners scheduled, as well as many receptions and ..... the ritual clean out and packing up of his apartment. This means I may post fewer blogs than usual and be even slower on moderating comments (which I love to get...). 

Following on this happy news.... I have made my last payment to the college and we are all celebrating Ben earning his degree without anyone taking on debt. I feel like I just got a huge raise!!!
(Let the unfettered camera buying begin!!!).

Studio Dog, the VSL security team, and the house sitter will remain in Austin to prepare for the boy's auspicious return. Some one has to dig the BBQ pit. Right?



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All of a sudden we’re getting tons of spam comments. I’m spending too much time moderating them. http://www.howtoshot.com/11922/all-of-a-sudden-were-getting-tons-of-spam-comments-im-spending-too-much-time-moderating-them/ http://www.howtoshot.com/11922/all-of-a-sudden-were-getting-tons-of-spam-comments-im-spending-too-much-time-moderating-them/#comments Mon, 14 May 2018 21:09:00 +0000 http://www.howtoshot.com/?guid=413c4866f0d199648bc525bc4f77ef20
 One of the glorious benefits of writing a blog for anyone who cares to read it is that sometimes your open access leads to being slimed and spammed by gutless anonymous web wankers. I'm getting so tired of it that I'm considering drastic measures. Maybe drinking a lot more red wine so that I can't even bother to care about the recent groundswell of trash, I'll be too busy thrashing out medical problems.  Or perhaps the best approach is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to hunt down the physical location of the spammers and then drop in with Mitch Rapp, Court Gentry and Dominic Caruso (all of their "heads on a swivel" ---swear to God, I've read that line in every action novel out there) and laying waste to their homes and offices with heavy weapons and even heavier action text and dialog. (reference to action heroes from three different novel/thriller franchises).

But mostly I think I'll just use this space to ask the spammer nicely, "Please Stop." Go and spam someone else. Maybe Tony Northrup or Jared Polin. They probably have staff that have time to read your stuff...

If it continues (and seriously, I'm getting from dozens to massive dozens per day) I'll just shut down the comments for a while and you sweet and loyal VSL readers can call me on my land line and give me your comments and thoughts directly.

I  hope it doesn't come to that. Not that I don't want to hear from you but I'd be chained to my desk. And I'd have to presume the spammers will start calling too..... grrrrr.

Have any of you ever, ever had your e-mail spammed (big cynical smiley face implied)?
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Nikon D800x known weakness and cheap fix. http://www.howtoshot.com/11923/nikon-d800x-known-weakness-and-cheap-fix/ http://www.howtoshot.com/11923/nikon-d800x-known-weakness-and-cheap-fix/#comments Mon, 14 May 2018 15:43:00 +0000 http://www.howtoshot.com/?guid=b7cb8249aadbce184c6b9aa907b64ee0
I recently bought two used Nikon D800 series cameras; a plain vanilla D800 and a spiffy D800e. I'm happy with the handling and the file quality and I've read on the web that these cameras are rugged and well built. There is a caveat to that though... According to my most trusted expert on used cameras and camera repair (he runs a very busy rental, trade-in and repair counter for a very successful camera store) the D800 (and above) cameras have on weakness that he's seen repeatedly over the years since their launch. Where the D700 camera had a solid, metal construction across the inside, bottom of the camera, which made it nearly impervious to blows to the bottom of the camera, the D800's+ have a two piece construction that is fairly susceptible to a hard knock delivered to the bottom of the camera. Once a camera gets a hard enough impact to the bottom it becomes, for all intents and purposes, dead. Yes, you could get the unit repaired but at a cost which would most likely exceed the cost of replacing it with another used copy.

While I am pretty careful and conscientious with my cameras (I don't hang three around my neck and do the photojournalist hustle, with cameras banging against each other....) I have made mistakes from time to time which may have endangered a camera or two.

So, how to protect a usable tool from accidental, deadly impact damage? I thought about this long and hard and decided that the answer lay in more armor. When I bought the D800e it came with a Nikon Branded MB-D12 battery grip. This seemed like the perfect solution to prevent bottom of camera impact and so I've left it on. I went to buy another one to put on the bottom of the second camera only to find that price for a new Nikon MB-D12 grip is the princely sum of $429, at new, retail. While that might be reasonable (probably not) if you were buying a new camera package, and also were interested in using bigger batteries in the grip, it is certainly not rational to pay what amounts to the price of a decent APS-C camera for a bit of extra structural "padding" at the bottom of one's camera!

I checked around on the web, found and bought an aftermarket version that got mostly 5 star reviews on Amazon.com, for a whopping $39, delivered in two days. It fits on the bottom of the camera and seems made from the same materials as the Nikon version. It works well and did not drain the camera battery overnight, or do anything else untoward. While my interest is only in camera protection I'm a bit happier having the battery grips on when it comes to shooting in a vertical orientation. It's nice to have the vertical shutter release...

My intention is to use it as I use the Nikon grip on the other camera; as armor plating against possible impact damage to the camera's bottom. My Nikon branded grip came to me used and did not have the battery trays for one extra lithium battery or six, in-grip, double "A" batteries, but the new one has trays for both. I'll load up both kinds of batteries just as a test but I find that one battery, in camera, makes the overall package lighter and lasts for at least half a day of heavy photographic work. If I were to use the cameras for video I'd see a much, much faster battery drain but that's not my intended use for the Nikons.

That's my known issue report on these particular Nikons. There was one other issue with early D800s which was well covered in the media and that is a focus issue where one part of the frame is not exactly parallel with the other, resulting in one sided focus issues. I've tested both new/used cameras and they are free of this malady.

Now were back out to the real world with the cameras and even less concerned about their safety...
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Join me in late October for a really cool (literally and figuratively) 9 day workshop in Iceland. Pretty amazing stuff. Photography, travel and food. What else can you ask for? http://www.howtoshot.com/11907/join-me-in-late-october-for-a-really-cool-literally-and-figuratively-9-day-workshop-in-iceland-pretty-amazing-stuff-photography-travel-and-food-what-else-can-you-ask-for/ http://www.howtoshot.com/11907/join-me-in-late-october-for-a-really-cool-literally-and-figuratively-9-day-workshop-in-iceland-pretty-amazing-stuff-photography-travel-and-food-what-else-can-you-ask-for/#comments Sun, 13 May 2018 01:25:00 +0000 http://www.howtoshot.com/?guid=a75a6908211d2cb82c18e2a35154d580 http://www.crafttours.com/trips/?page=iceland_photography_1018

I'm ready.



All photos ©ODL Design. All ©ODL Design. 


After shooting through a winter storm in Canada, in February, I've learned how to dress for the cold. I'm practicing eating Icelandic fare and I'm looking forward to exploring all the nooks and crannies of photography with like minded shooters. Come along for the ride and we'll have a great time.


Read more on the authentic site of Kirk Tuck =http://visualsciencelab.blogspot.com. Unauthorized use of this material by any third party is not allowed. If you aren't reading it on your RSS feed or my blog you are reading it on a pirate site. See my images at kirktuck.com. See more portraits at http://kirktucksportraits.blogspot.com Read my novel: The Lisbon Portfolio.
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I'm ready.



All photos ©ODL Design. All ©ODL Design. 


After shooting through a winter storm in Canada, in February, I've learned how to dress for the cold. I'm practicing eating Icelandic fare and I'm looking forward to exploring all the nooks and crannies of photography with like minded shooters. Come along for the ride and we'll have a great time.


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A Giant Chicken got into my Studio this Afternoon. I chased it around and cornered it on the white seamless. Then I photographed it…. http://www.howtoshot.com/11908/a-giant-chicken-got-into-my-studio-this-afternoon-i-chased-it-around-and-cornered-it-on-the-white-seamless-then-i-photographed-it/ http://www.howtoshot.com/11908/a-giant-chicken-got-into-my-studio-this-afternoon-i-chased-it-around-and-cornered-it-on-the-white-seamless-then-i-photographed-it/#comments Sat, 12 May 2018 23:33:00 +0000 http://www.howtoshot.com/?guid=edadce5f3b39f1be25456f3c48e9ab65 So, there I was in the studio when I heard a bunch of squawking and opened the door. In rushed a giant chicken with balloons tied to its wings. "What the hell?" was my first response but soon I was able to corner the chicken and corral him onto the white seamless background I'd set up this morning for no particular reason. Just opposite the lights I also set up for no discernible reason at all.

Actually, this is world famous actor and playwright, Jaston Williams, who co-wrote, co-produced and co-starred in TUNA TEXAS and A TUNA CHRISTMAS; two hilarious plays that have toured almost every major city in the United States. He called yesterday to see if we could do a quick shoot for a play he'll be opening in San Antonio in the next few weeks. I have no idea why there is a chicken suit but, anything Jaston is in I'll go see. He oozes comedy.

I need to see if he'll make me a pair of those incredible "fins", they may be just what I need for the next swim practice.

This is what I do on Saturdays when I am taking time off and relaxing. Kinda.

Weird gear brief: Neewer Vision 4 lights, Nikon D800e camera, crusty, old Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 zoom lens. Not much post. GIRIC (get is right in camera!).

Keeping Austin Weird. One Photo Assignment at a Time.

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Big, soft lights mean big catch lights. Do we retouch them? Do we blot the catchlights out in PhotoShop? What’s a photographer to do? http://www.howtoshot.com/11909/big-soft-lights-mean-big-catch-lights-do-we-retouch-them-do-we-blot-the-catchlights-out-in-photoshop-whats-a-photographer-to-do/ http://www.howtoshot.com/11909/big-soft-lights-mean-big-catch-lights-do-we-retouch-them-do-we-blot-the-catchlights-out-in-photoshop-whats-a-photographer-to-do/#comments Sat, 12 May 2018 20:26:00 +0000 http://www.howtoshot.com/?guid=4314c3b5f62349b95d53d904e20f88a8
This is an image of Heidi that we did for my second book; the one about studio lighting. The image is an example of the look you get when you use a very large lighting modifier close in to your subject. There is a beautiful light playing across her face and it falls off as you go from the left to the right of the image. By putting up a black velvet light subtractor to the left of frame (the right side as you look at it here) I was able to get a nice and dramatic shadow on the left side of her face, in spite of the inclusive nature of the light source.

The only thing that might give a viewer pause would be the size and brightness of the catchlights (the reflection of the big lighting modifier (a six foot umbrella) or any light source in the eyes). It's an ongoing issue because the catchlights will be there unless you go in and retouch the image. With a natural light source I am almost always inclined to leave the catchlights as they are. It's only in studio lit portraits that I waffle. I like to leave them but some clients expect them to be gone. It's worth a discussion with the people commissioning the work.

Here's the image, edited quickly, who NO catchlights:


Finally, here's an image (just below), edited even more quickly, that shows a compromise between the two extremes. There is no "right" way and I chaff at most retouching of things that occur in the actual shooting, but I'm curious to hear what others think. Not that I'll change the way I do stuff but......

I have switched to back button AF, so there is that....


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Still thinking about composition. Half the frame is content the other half is non-tent. http://www.howtoshot.com/11910/still-thinking-about-composition-half-the-frame-is-content-the-other-half-is-non-tent/ http://www.howtoshot.com/11910/still-thinking-about-composition-half-the-frame-is-content-the-other-half-is-non-tent/#comments Fri, 11 May 2018 21:21:00 +0000 http://www.howtoshot.com/?guid=4c12f6caf5e7fde8092236d7403218dc This is a photo of novel writer, singer and sometimes political candidate for Texas Governor, Kinky Friedman. He's an Austin icon. I had a good time wrangling him into the studio and getting him to sit still (almost impossible) and usually I talk about the gear I use to shoot something like this or how I lit the shot. But lately I've been more interested in composition.

As I examine more and more of my older, square compositions I can see that there is a balance between the amount of space my subjects occupy and how much is left over. It seems, usually, to be a 50:50 balance between the two, which much make sense to some part of my brain.

The bonus, for me in this photo, is the wonderful diagonal of Kinky's black hat. Nothing I planned but maybe most portrait moves are better explained by the book, "Blink" by Malcolm Gladwell....

Thoughts?

kirktuck.com
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The folder full of sky. http://www.howtoshot.com/11911/the-folder-full-of-sky/ http://www.howtoshot.com/11911/the-folder-full-of-sky/#comments Thu, 10 May 2018 23:28:00 +0000 http://www.howtoshot.com/?guid=8b50219682f67fda41362f8fa507b3f8
I was mentoring a younger photographer who was hellbent on being an architectural photographer. I have no interest in architecture beyond hoping that architects concentrate on making the buildings and houses that I must look at everyday.....pleasant and interesting. I'm not at all into conceptual architecture but happy when it only exists in plans.

At any rate, I've done at least several hundred assignments for magazines, home builders and industrial builders, documenting the interiors and exteriors of all kinds of structures. For nearly everyone of those assignments I used a some kind of 4x5 inch view cameras and had mostly mastered the quick use of front and rear standard rises and falls. Almost all the assignments were done on film.

So I was showing the photographer how and why to use the rise on his tilt/shift lens and we started talking about a job he'd just done. He was a bit miffed with the results because the house he was assigned to photograph could only be done on a specific day, and that day had been plagued with a bald, ozone-y sky. The light on the house was fine but the sky was a whitish-gray mess.

I suggested that he just grab a good sky from his files and drop it in behind the house. This is the age of PhotoShop, after all. He didn't have a "sky' folder. He immediately went into male photographer problem solving mode = (Google) and started looking for stock skies. I just shook my head.

I think every working, commercial, professional photographer; no matter what their specialty, should have a folder on their computer that's filled to the brim with high res shots of skies. Morning skies, evening skies, big Texas Cloud skies, glowering thunderhead skies, high/thin/cloud skies and every other sky you can think of. In fact, when I'm out roaming around and I see a rich, blue Texas sky dotted with dramatic white clouds I can't grab my camera and a normal (or slightly wide) lens quickly enough.

This is not just advice for architecture photographers; I drop in backgrounds if I'm doing a portrait in an office that has a spectacular view that just hasn't materialized during my shoot.

If you don't already have a sky file you  probably need one and now is a great time to start. It will come in handy. Eventually you'll have an emergency sky for every occasion. We still try to get every photograph just right, in the camera, but schedules, clients, weather and bad view angles sometimes frustrate our best intentions. Dip into the file, make a new layer and fix things up.

Just remember to match the saturation of the sky to the rest of the file and to toss the sky layer out of focus if it makes logical sense.

Several years later the younger photographer dropped by for a visit. I reviewed at his portfolio. It looked great. He told me that half the images in his "book" were made with dropped-in skies and the other half were shot as straight. To his credit I could not tell which was which. He thanked me profusely and we both went outside to see if there was any sky worth shooting.....
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Contrast for composition. http://www.howtoshot.com/11912/contrast-for-composition/ http://www.howtoshot.com/11912/contrast-for-composition/#comments Thu, 10 May 2018 23:09:00 +0000 http://www.howtoshot.com/?guid=8ab4533e9f920012d78a622efc51ecfe
I'm going to bet that if we measured the space Lou takes up in the frame and subtracted it from the total area of the photograph that the subject area, and the area for the rest of the frame, would be close to a 50:50, balanced split. Somehow I think this works. It's fun when you try for a compositional effect and it actually works...




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Jobs don’t just wrap up when the shooting ends and the galleries get delivered. More stuff happens. http://www.howtoshot.com/11913/jobs-dont-just-wrap-up-when-the-shooting-ends-and-the-galleries-get-delivered-more-stuff-happens/ http://www.howtoshot.com/11913/jobs-dont-just-wrap-up-when-the-shooting-ends-and-the-galleries-get-delivered-more-stuff-happens/#comments Wed, 09 May 2018 21:45:00 +0000 http://www.howtoshot.com/?guid=eb5ce11925f9e7078ae9b9577d450a54
Amy sits in while we light and comp for a photo at a medical practice.

I'm beginning to think I need to re-brand as a full service advertising agency. More and more of my clients are having a hard time coming to grips with what kind of value a traditional advertising agency brings to the table. They'd like to have a single point of contact that can supply all the content they need, and with a uniform look and feel for their brand. But they are chaffing at continuing with agencies which seem to only want to concentrate and "strategize" around social media and web video.

One of the clients I've been working with recently met me five years ago when a small marketing agency brought us together so I could light and shoot video interviews of their executive team, and then also shoot traditional photographs, to use on their website, and in brochures and presentations. The agency, and the video editing house that did the post production on the client's video, both went out of business but the client did not. Nor did I.

The client (a manufacturing concern) got in touch with me last month and wanted to do a complete refresh of their materials. They had expanded their scope of services, changed some key personnel, and even added a new factory location outside the U.S. I was delighted that they wanted to have me back for more work but I quickly found that most clients without ad agencies are experts at their own business but usually much less adept at the fine points (and details required) to pull all the marketing together and make it work.

I'm used to working with art directors and graphic designers who love to see all the options from a photography or video shoot. If we shoot 1,000 images and I edit out all the stinkers and end up with 500 equally good (technically and aesthetically) photographs the art directors generally want to see all the variations. They may be looking at our collection with a very specific layout in mind. They may want a different expression than I might value. But most importantly they are very efficient at looking through lots of options to narrow down to just the right one. And they generally know it when they see it.

With the client I mentioned above the CEO is trying to do all the heavy lifting for marketing but he doesn't have the background and experience that a first tier art director would. For example, when I supplied the first gallery of images from one of our shoots he asked if I had already cropped all the images. When I told him that the art directors usually crop the images so they fit into specific layouts he seemed a bit lost. He also wanted me to edit down to just the single "best" image of each set up so he could quickly pick what he needed. Again, this is something we would have an art director do.

We need to reconstruct a video for him as well but the companies that had the original footage and motion graphics are no longer around. I'm walking the CEO through the process to the realization that you can't really just chop new stuff together with the original copy as it exists on YouTube; that we'd need to start more or less from scratch.

The company, while prosperous, isn't making much use at all of social media or inbound marketing either. While it looks like a big opportunity for someone to step in, provide good direction, make great content, and more or less lead the client through the marketing minefield I constantly remind myself that Just because somebody tosses you a ball doesn't mean you have to catch it.

I'll hang in there with this client while I try to find them a good, competent, collaborative agency to take over the day-to-day stuff that clients of this size really do require. I'm not a proficient website designer so that's got to be a priority. I'm not a graphic designer/art director so that's a priority as well. In fact, if I stick with what I do best it's going to be photography, copywriting and shooting video; in that order.

But if I try to do it all I will run out of time for the stuff I love to do. Like swimming. And the people I need to take care of. Like my dad.

Another client represents the way we've always worked but reminds me that no job is ever really finished....if the images are good, have lasting value to the client and have legs.

We shot on three different Saturdays and one Thursday for a medical specialty client here in Austin that has over 140 doctors/partners on the rolls. Under the direction of the in-house art director, Amy and I shot over 3,000 images which we edited down to about 1,500. We shot multiple teams of technicians and doctors doing multiple processes in multiple locations. And we supplied lots of detail shots that are like candy to the people designing the final work...

After the shoot we edited down the take, globally color corrected and adjusted tonality and detail, and generally made all the images immediately usable. We don't do any retouching until final images have been selected and ordered.

The galleries went up and a few weeks later the client ordered 40+ files to be retouched. The retouching had nothing to do with the quality of the images or the way they were shot but had to do with specifics that the client wanted changed. These would be things like taking a large tattoo off a nurse's arm, changing the wall color in the background. Changing the color of someone's scrubs. Fixing a fault with a doctor's white coat. Adding an embroidered name to said doctor's white coat, removing patient names from a screen file, removing wear marks from a piece of equipment, giving one talent in an image a specific hair cut and much more. Each file could take up to 30 minutes to change and perfect. Of course, we bill for this service and the clients expect to pay for it.

But if you have enough clients and they all choose different images to use in additional projects (different images and usages than the original project) you might find that the process of re-working and re-editing files to be nearly endless. Again, the scheduling problem with swimming.....

I am currently re-working files for three different clients who liked what we shot enough to re-use parts of the original takes in very different, new projects. Yesterday I got a request to prep about 200 files. Most are just minor adjustments that I can make quickly but some require more attention.

The wags among us would immediately bark out that all of this should have been handled in pre-production but they miss the point of the 21st century: clients changing their minds after the shoot. Then there are budget constraints and impossibility constraints. Yes, we could have had the wall in the Sonogram room re-painted. It would have taken time to get everyone to pre-agree on a paint color, agree on which days we might have access to the room to paint it and let paint dry (no patients=no income) and then to re-paint the wall back to its original color once our half hour in that location was complete. Not going to happen in the present era. Not when art directors are keenly aware of what can be done in post production.

We did one job for a Swiss bio-medical research company nearly a year ago and almost quarterly we get requests to re-purpose dozens of images to be used in new ways. And it's the same with video. While we remember the days when we did our jobs, got the clients to sign off on the "approval Polaroid", processed the film and handed off the sheet film (and all future responsibility) to the client, cashed our checks and closed the books on a project, that's not today's business reality.

The important thing to do in order to survive endless re-purposing is to be like lawyers. Keep track of your time, bill frequently and bill accurately. Clients need to know that every time we touch a file for them it takes resources. Our time and their money.

While I think a creative content agency would work well in today's agency climate, where most "agencies" just want to design and produce websites, I remember just how much work it was to manage staff and keep clients from fucking everything up at the last minute. I think I'll just persist in making photos and shooting random video. It seems like a safer bet for my sanity and quality of life....Now to find my goggles. Don't worry, I have many more pairs of goggles than I do cameras.
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A long overdue walk with a recently neglected camera. Breaking the cycle of full frame dominance. http://www.howtoshot.com/11914/a-long-overdue-walk-with-a-recently-neglected-camera-breaking-the-cycle-of-full-frame-dominance/ http://www.howtoshot.com/11914/a-long-overdue-walk-with-a-recently-neglected-camera-breaking-the-cycle-of-full-frame-dominance/#comments Wed, 09 May 2018 17:27:00 +0000 http://www.howtoshot.com/?guid=3093112717365974c6cd4b3474fa3ee6
Downtown Cadillac. 

I've been busy lately. One of the things I've missed was the simple pleasure of taking a camera off the shelf and heading downtown to walk around, breathe deeply the urban air, and look at stuff with both arch elitism and benign naiveté. 

I pulled on some old short pants and a black polo shirt. I looked very bit of 62 years old with my white socks and brown oxford shoes. I finished off the "you kids get the hell off my lawn" look with a nice pair of bifocal eyeglasses. Oh, and a baseball cap. Nothing says "I don't really care anymore" than a nicely mismatched ensemble of too casual ware. At least the camera was topical and chic...

After weeks of dalliance and intrigue with the various Nikons I thought I'd take it easy with a camera that delivers the goods without affectation or strain. I chose the Panasonic GH5 because I missed it and I also realized that I'd purchased a Sigma 30mm f1.4 Art lens for that system back in early January and the chaos for me at the beginning of the year meant that I've barely used that lens. Almost overlooked it entirely. 

A quick aside about this building: It was originally a hotel. It was originally built in the 1930's and was actually named, the California Hotel!!!  It's located on East 7th Street in the downtown bar area. Many years ago a group of artists got a lease on the property and renovated it (more or less). We had a huge downstairs display space as well as a smaller gallery for more intimate art shows. There was a commercial kitchen in the back. We never air conditioned the building and we never added an indoor shower either. The shower was in the back courtyard and the "air conditioning" consisted of cheap fans from the hardware store. At one time an art director from Texas Monthly Magazine had her painting studio her, across the hall from my one room, upstairs, studio and living space (a futon I could roll up if I needed to shoot). Musician, Charlie Sexton had a room in the left top corner while mine was on the right. We also had the curator of the Laguna Gloria Museum in residence as well as any number of wonderfully eccentric artists. I started hanging out and working here in the late 1970's, early 1980's. This was home to my first solo photography show. I made my first "important" portrait here (a 4x5 format portrait of Mike Levy, then publisher of Texas Monthly Magazine) and I did my first photo-illustration assignment for Texas Monthly in the down stairs gallery. I left after I got a teaching assistant's position at UT. The dream of air conditioning was finally realized. The nostalgia for a simpler time remains.

I've a new convert to the "back button focus" cult. I tried it out on the Nikons, liked disconnecting the shutter from the AF and decided to see if the same set up was possible on the Panasonics. It is! In the space of several weeks I've gone from having everything tied to the shutter button and shooting only in center-sensor-single-frame AF to full on, full area AF in continuous AF. It's a weird pleasure to watch the little green boxes race around the confines of the EVF until I let go of the back button and realize that we're locked in until I decide to change something. I like it. No more focus and re-compose. I feel unfettered. The camera feels unleashed. Let the torrents of "I told you so..." begin. 


I had another "mini-epiphany" this morning. I decided, after looking through some of the 550,000 images I have up on my Smugmug.com account, that I tend to post process my images to be too bright, too flat and a bit too saturated. I spent this morning talking myself off the ledge of infinite shadow recovery. Tougher than kicking other bad habits but something to work on all the same. 

The image just above, of café chairs and planters is my attempt to ratchet down the drama to an acceptable level. I need to work on getting the mix just right but at least it's a start...


I have a few observations to make about the lens. The Sigma 30mm f1.4 "Art" lens is nicely sharp and contrasty. It's big but lightweight. The supplied hood is nice and deep. Images like the ones in this blog post aren't really a challenge for many lenses since most were shot at f4.5 or around there. I've been shooting some at the wide open aperture and find that, where I am focused, the content is nearly as sharp and contrasty as that at the medium apertures. I like the lens and the focal length very much; even more so when I use the camera in "Hasselblad Square" mode. The focal length seems just right for the square format. 

With my appreciation of this lens realized I am looking forward to trying out its wider sibling, the 16mm version. They, along with the legendary 60mm f2.8 Sigma lens would make a very nice and compact traveling system for the photographer who prefers individual focal lengths over zooms. 





Today is post production and studio cleaning day. My swim is done, my walk is over. Now to put my brain back into the game of doing my business and getting stuff done. At least until late afternoon...It's my turn to cook dinner and I've got steak and salad on my mind. Along with a nice, S. African red wine (a blend) that's just begging to be uncorked...

Go Cameras!

Read more on the authentic site of Kirk Tuck =http://visualsciencelab.blogspot.com. Unauthorized use of this material by any third party is not allowed. If you aren't reading it on your RSS feed or my blog you are reading it on a pirate site. See my images at kirktuck.com. See more portraits at http://kirktucksportraits.blogspot.com Read my novel: The Lisbon Portfolio.
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Downtown Cadillac. 

I've been busy lately. One of the things I've missed was the simple pleasure of taking a camera off the shelf and heading downtown to walk around, breathe deeply the urban air, and look at stuff with both arch elitism and benign naiveté. 

I pulled on some old short pants and a black polo shirt. I looked very bit of 62 years old with my white socks and brown oxford shoes. I finished off the "you kids get the hell off my lawn" look with a nice pair of bifocal eyeglasses. Oh, and a baseball cap. Nothing says "I don't really care anymore" than a nicely mismatched ensemble of too casual ware. At least the camera was topical and chic...

After weeks of dalliance and intrigue with the various Nikons I thought I'd take it easy with a camera that delivers the goods without affectation or strain. I chose the Panasonic GH5 because I missed it and I also realized that I'd purchased a Sigma 30mm f1.4 Art lens for that system back in early January and the chaos for me at the beginning of the year meant that I've barely used that lens. Almost overlooked it entirely. 

A quick aside about this building: It was originally a hotel. It was originally built in the 1930's and was actually named, the California Hotel!!!  It's located on East 7th Street in the downtown bar area. Many years ago a group of artists got a lease on the property and renovated it (more or less). We had a huge downstairs display space as well as a smaller gallery for more intimate art shows. There was a commercial kitchen in the back. We never air conditioned the building and we never added an indoor shower either. The shower was in the back courtyard and the "air conditioning" consisted of cheap fans from the hardware store. At one time an art director from Texas Monthly Magazine had her painting studio her, across the hall from my one room, upstairs, studio and living space (a futon I could roll up if I needed to shoot). Musician, Charlie Sexton had a room in the left top corner while mine was on the right. We also had the curator of the Laguna Gloria Museum in residence as well as any number of wonderfully eccentric artists. I started hanging out and working here in the late 1970's, early 1980's. This was home to my first solo photography show. I made my first "important" portrait here (a 4x5 format portrait of Mike Levy, then publisher of Texas Monthly Magazine) and I did my first photo-illustration assignment for Texas Monthly in the down stairs gallery. I left after I got a teaching assistant's position at UT. The dream of air conditioning was finally realized. The nostalgia for a simpler time remains.

I've a new convert to the "back button focus" cult. I tried it out on the Nikons, liked disconnecting the shutter from the AF and decided to see if the same set up was possible on the Panasonics. It is! In the space of several weeks I've gone from having everything tied to the shutter button and shooting only in center-sensor-single-frame AF to full on, full area AF in continuous AF. It's a weird pleasure to watch the little green boxes race around the confines of the EVF until I let go of the back button and realize that we're locked in until I decide to change something. I like it. No more focus and re-compose. I feel unfettered. The camera feels unleashed. Let the torrents of "I told you so..." begin. 


I had another "mini-epiphany" this morning. I decided, after looking through some of the 550,000 images I have up on my Smugmug.com account, that I tend to post process my images to be too bright, too flat and a bit too saturated. I spent this morning talking myself off the ledge of infinite shadow recovery. Tougher than kicking other bad habits but something to work on all the same. 

The image just above, of café chairs and planters is my attempt to ratchet down the drama to an acceptable level. I need to work on getting the mix just right but at least it's a start...


I have a few observations to make about the lens. The Sigma 30mm f1.4 "Art" lens is nicely sharp and contrasty. It's big but lightweight. The supplied hood is nice and deep. Images like the ones in this blog post aren't really a challenge for many lenses since most were shot at f4.5 or around there. I've been shooting some at the wide open aperture and find that, where I am focused, the content is nearly as sharp and contrasty as that at the medium apertures. I like the lens and the focal length very much; even more so when I use the camera in "Hasselblad Square" mode. The focal length seems just right for the square format. 

With my appreciation of this lens realized I am looking forward to trying out its wider sibling, the 16mm version. They, along with the legendary 60mm f2.8 Sigma lens would make a very nice and compact traveling system for the photographer who prefers individual focal lengths over zooms. 





Today is post production and studio cleaning day. My swim is done, my walk is over. Now to put my brain back into the game of doing my business and getting stuff done. At least until late afternoon...It's my turn to cook dinner and I've got steak and salad on my mind. Along with a nice, S. African red wine (a blend) that's just begging to be uncorked...

Go Cameras!

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Looking though some wine and restaurant shots made with "ancient" cameras and lenses…. http://www.howtoshot.com/11915/looking-though-some-wine-and-restaurant-shots-made-with-ancient-cameras-and-lenses/ http://www.howtoshot.com/11915/looking-though-some-wine-and-restaurant-shots-made-with-ancient-cameras-and-lenses/#comments Wed, 09 May 2018 13:09:00 +0000 http://www.howtoshot.com/?guid=f234c9a5924631af2ea270eadca6df98


I understand that some people think the universe of commercial photography is falling down around our us but I've been extremely busy in May. At least it feels that way once I toss in the responsible adult parent care I'm also trying to handle. Last week and this week are a case in point. I shot and processed four different jobs last week, work that also included time consuming travel back and forth to Mexico, but I spent time engaged in a different adventure on Sunday and Monday. I headed back down to San Antonio on Sunday afternoon to get my father prepped for a very early appointment on Monday morning. Our event of the day was an early morning trip to the hospital to have his pacemaker replaced. Now I know all you electro-physiologists/cardiologists sprinkled through our VSL readership will probably roll their collective eyes and tell me what a trivial procedure a simple, sub-cutaneous replacement of the generator only is but I'm here to tell you that the real trick is getting a cranky 90 year old with some memory issues up from a deep sleep, through his morning rituals and into a car at 5:45 in the morning. And me without an ounce of even bad coffee....

Everything went well; better than I could have imagined (I'm an anxious pessimist....) and we were back at dad's memory care facility in time for a late lunch. Once I'd briefed the nurses on the procedure, and my dad headed back to his room to listen to the classical music station and take a nap, I got back in the too familiar car and headed back to Austin. I needed to get home; I had a shoot scheduled for the next day and I needed to pack cameras and think through the requirements of a different kind of shoot. 

Yesterday's assignment was at midday and over by around 3pm, which was great since I like jumping right in and getting all my post production done in the moment. While I watched the files upload I finally had time to bill for the last four assignments. I was pleased to find that I had been able to make my accounting target, my "nut" in the first week of the month. I kicked back and started the upload of the day's assignment to a private gallery on Smugmug. 

While I was on the site I started looking around at some of the other 550,000 images resident there. I stumbled across a folder of images from a story about wines that I'd done for Tribeza Magazine back in 2006 or 2007. I was pleased with how well the images held up. 

As you are aware I've been having a flirtation with older cameras lately. More specifically, cameras like the Nikon D2Xs, which was the most expensive camera I ever bought brand new. When I looked through the images from the wine story I was amazed at how much I liked the actual photographs. The color, the sharpness and even the out of focus background areas. I kept hitting the "info" button on the files to see what camera and lens I had used. Almost every wine image in this blog post was done with the D2Xs but the real star (in my mind) was the 28-70mm f2.8 Nikon lens on the front of the camera. I think it was one of the finest lenses I have owned in any system and the testament to that is that most of these images were shot handheld at the lens's maximum aperture.

Yes, now I am on the search for a mint condition 28-70mm f2.8 AF-d. I know that just by writing this I will almost certainly boost the price I'll end up paying for a nice copy. But really, I can just imagine how nice the images will be when I use this lens on one of the D800's. Or, even better, on a D700.

After last week I was thinking we'd slow down a bit but I just got hit with a request to post process several hundred images from several shoots done earlier this year, then we have an assignment with a new doctor on Friday and over the weekend we'll finalize plans and budgets for a new video project for one of my ongoing manufacturing clients. Oh, and of course, the Sunday visit for lunch with my dad. 

All the work has disappeared? Maybe not. Maybe the marketing disappeared.....






















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The agony of unpacking. The near opposite of the joy of unboxing. http://www.howtoshot.com/11916/the-agony-of-unpacking-the-near-opposite-of-the-joy-of-unboxing/ http://www.howtoshot.com/11916/the-agony-of-unpacking-the-near-opposite-of-the-joy-of-unboxing/#comments Sat, 05 May 2018 20:00:00 +0000 http://www.howtoshot.com/?guid=88ae60a62115b926af1db28f32ed0ed2 will be for their work, which seems a little off since there work seems to consist of.....just unboxing things on YouTube. Sometimes they will also read off the specifications of the new object in an attempt to....flesh out the droll nature of their content.


Today, after two large production shoots in two different countries, and one smaller production shoot piggy-backed on top, I have the displeasure of pulling all the gear out of a collection of black cases (some "rolling", some not) and assessing each piece before putting it back in its rightful spot. Only by putting things back where they go will I be able to figure out where they are next time I need them.

Leaving gear in the travel cases is not a good option for me because I am certain I'll be packing a different selection of equipment the next time I head out the door.

I start with the easy stuff first. Those are the stand bags and tripod bags. Yesterday's shoot called for a total of 9 light stands, 2 flex fill holders, a giant scrim frame and two tripods. All of those things come out of the dark recesses of the bags, are examined for breakage or missing parts and then put into the stand holder or tripod holder near the door of the studio. This makes it easy for me to select just the right stands in the future. If they lived in the bags I'm pretty sure I'd forget about them entirely. Why do I check the condition of this gear? Let me answer that with my own question: Have you ever gotten to a shoot only to discover that you've lost the quick release plate for the head of your tripod?

Next up is the case full of cameras and lenses. I blow off all camera bodies with compressed air to get rid of dust and junk that may have attached to the gear. Best to get rid of it before I take lenses off bodies. I check the fronts and backs of every lens for dust or surface marks. Any lens that needs cleaning gets it right way. The quicker you handle a nasty thumbprint on the glass of your lens the less chance that the acid in the oils from your skin will etch into the coatings of the lens and degrade its performance. A clean lens is a happier lens.  But if the lens doesn't require wet cleaning don't do it reflexively  ---- better to keep your lenses clean than to keep cleaning your lenses.

Once we've separated lenses from bodies I pull the batteries from the cameras and put them on their chargers. Better, in my mind, to have topped up batteries in the equipment drawer because you never know when a good client might call and ask if there's anyway you could come over soon? Or you might have the opportunity to do a fun, spur of the moment project. Why wait for exhausted batteries to recharge as a reactive response to an opportunity?

I also pull the memory cards and download all needed files, backing the content up initially in two new places. In this way I never get to a location, find my only card already loaded with valuable images, rendering me incapable of doing new work. Having a workflow or post shoot process keeps me from making unintended errors.  Better to just get stuff done than to try and remember what you did and did not do. And what you might need to do next.

Next up, cords get wrapped, (or re-wrapped, if a non-cord certified person offered to help by (mis)-wrapping your cables at the last location) so they don't develop unruly kinks and bends. Re-wrapping your extension cables, power cables and microphone cables also lets you know when a cable has gotten dirty or greasy from a less than tidy location and needs to be cleaned. If you take care of your tools they will take care of you.

Portable electronic flash gear and battery powered LED panels get checked to make sure all the parts for each unit are in their cases and that everything is functional. Now is the best time to find out sad news about the operational status of a piece of gear. You may have time to replace or repair it before it is needed again. Mostly, I'm looking to recharge all the batteries and check for breakage.

Finally, all the cases are cleaned out and sometimes vacuumed. You pick up a lot of dust working in busy industrial sites and you might as well keep it away from your equipment if you can. Once the cases are emptied and cleaned they go back onto the shelves they came from. If the cases are empty I can quickly pull down a preferred case and fill it with new gear rather than having to unpack under what might be a future tight schedule.

All of this takes time on the day of unpacking but being organized is much more efficient than "winging" it. If everything goes into cases in a logical order it's so much easier to work on busy location. If you did your packing well you know where every component is at all time. Your unpacking gives you the chance to see just how good your organizational skills were and to make improvements for the next time. Works for me.

At this point I am done stowing the photo gear and ready to reward myself with a nice cup of coffee.

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