Flat Track Racing at Aztalan Raceway in Wisconsin

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I enjoy shooting any type of sports…and if it happens to involve some kind of racing….that enjoyment turns to love. Running, riding, driving…if it moves, count me in!
A few weeks ago I found myself in Milwaukee for the weekend with nowhere to be and plenty of spare time. As I was driving up to Devil’s Lake State Park (a place that I’ve wanted to check our for a long time) I happened to drive by Aztalan Motorcycle Complex and see that they had an event going on both Saturday and Sunday. After a bit of hiking and photographing at Devil’s Lake, I hightailed it back to Aztalan where I arrived in time to catch some of the Flat Track (or Short Track) racing program on Saturday night.
I quickly parked my truck in the camping area (gotta love free camping in the pits of the motocross track!) and gathered my gear and headed for the Flat Track. As I approached they had kids racing four wheel ATV’s and I found a place in the fence that had a hole just large enough to get my lens through. Each time another race started, I changed my position on the track and was able to get a different angle or view of the racers.
As they started the heat races and main events, the light was getting better and the racing more intense. The motorcycles came out and I was totally blown away by the lack of control it seemed the racers had over the machines. As I watched more racing, I came to understand that they actually had total control, it just didn’t look like it!
As you can see by the first photo, riders would slide through the corners by applying the throttle halfway through the corner and allow the rear wheel to spin a little as a way to come out of the corner faster.

I love shooting action with a panning motion to really accentuate the blur of the background. Panning seems like a such a simple thing….yet it can be extremely hard to accomplish without a lot of practice. For me, I usually end up with about a 50% success rate when shooting like this.

Also, I couldn’t not include a shot of the little kids that were racing motorcycles on the flat track. Just too cute…..

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Thanx for listening!

 

AL

Desert Dweller

IMG_4924My wife and I were recently in Morocco for a few weeks exploring the country. We did a large clockwise route around the country, and we spent a couple of days near the town of Merzouga, in the Erg-Chebbi Dunes.

On the night that we arrived, we walked out into the dunes from our hotel to see if maybe there would be a decent sunset. The hotels are situated mere feet from the dunes, and between the hotel and the dunes was a group of camels that are used for camel treks into the dunes.

As we walked out into the dunes, a couple of guys that I guessed were camel handlers started walking towards us, and when they got near one of them asked where we were from (this is the favorite way for Moroccans to engage tourists, and we were probably asked this question hundreds of times in the days that we were there). He spoke a little English, and a little Spanish (which my wife is fluent in) and we talked a bit as the four of us walked into the dunes. I was keeping one eye on the sunset (which never occurred due to high winds kicking up too much sand and blocking out the sunset) while listening to the conversation. We finally reached a point where I could tell that I wouldn’t be taking any photographs, and we stopped walking and stood talking for a few minutes.

That’s when the sales pitch started….

Tourists are seen as a way to make a living in Morocco. Not unlike everywhere else in the world. Unemployment is huge, and there aren’t a ton of ways to make money. This makes for some very uneasy conversations…… There wasn’t a single person that started a conversation with us that didn’t ask us to buy something, or come right out and ask for money. At first, it was hard to say no. By the end of the trip however, we found it extremely easy to ignore a friendly “hello”, because we knew it would lead to a conversation about $$$.

Our two “friends” that accompanied us into the desert had some fossils and handicrafts for sale. Morocco is huge when it comes to crystals and fossils, and there are shops and roadside stands everywhere in the desert that have shelf upon shelf of them.

In the end, we bought one thing from each of the men that we were talking to. Naturally, I asked to photograph them (I now considered them paid models) and this image of the older man that spoke no english is one of my favorites of the trip.

Plenty can be said when it comes to tourism, and paying people to photograph them. I don’t always think it’s a good idea, but sometimes I feel it’s appropriate. Everyone is trying to make a living….just like me. Some people will say that you should never give $$$ to anyone that you photograph, but if models get paid here in the US, why is it wrong to pay them abroad?

A few times on this trip I was yelled at for taking photos of fisherman in one of the villages that we were in. I wasn’t happy, but I put my camera away. No need to get into an argument when there were about 100 fisherman and just one of me. I wanted to explain that the tourists taking pictures of them were the same tourists that were buying meals at the restaurants that they sold their fish to….but it’s probably a moot point for them. They just don’t want to be photographed, regardless.

It’s always interesting to see what happens when you start pointing a camera at people. Some people shy away, some people love it…..while others see it as a way to make money.

In the end, we bought some souvenirs from some guys that obviously could use the money. I got a few photographs that I really like. It’s that simple….

 

Thanx for listening……

My Experience with Stock Photography

This post is in reply to a discussion from another site that I was involved with concerning my experience with stock photography….or more specifically, selling stock photography.

First things first. I am represented by www.istockphoto.com. The company that started the downfall of stock photography pricing as we know it. I know photographers in general have nothing good to say about istock. For a long time, I was one of them.

This post is not going to address anything about the stock vs. microstock business model….or about how things aren’t what they used to be…..or how I’m helping to kill the market for imagery. These arguments have been around a long time, and I’m not really interested in rehashing them…..

About ten or fifteen years ago, I became interested in getting involved in selling stock photos. I sent images off to every stock agency out there, and was turned down by all of them. It was hugely frustrating (of course, looking back now I can easily see why). Around the same time istock had started, and was undercutting the big stock agencies by huge margins….and gaining a huge segment of the market. I cursed them, seeing that they were cutting into my future earnings (if I could just get into an agency).

At some point, a friend of mine was accepted as a contributor to istock. We had conversations about what they were doing to the market, but when he started to make a little money I started paying a little more attention. Eventually, I applied to istock to see what it was all about. It should be noted here that way back then, it was pretty easy to get accepted – take a test and submit three images that needed to be technically excellent.

Eventually, I started getting images accepted into their collection….and lo and behold, I had a sale! Back then, istock was very different from other stock agencies in that you had instant visibility to your sales (no other stock agency had that ability). I started to sell an image every week or so, making anywhere from twenty five cents to a couple of dollars each time. The more I uploaded, the more I started to sell, and the more money I made. First my goal was to make some extra beer money, then it was my lunch money every day…..and eventually, my truck payment. After that, I aimed for the big time – I wanted to make my mortgage payment (it was around $1000.00 at that time). It took me a couple of years, but I got there. All the while, I was uploading images. Not a lot…..I had maybe a few hundred images over the first few years…..but they kept chugging along. I should add that most of this time, I was on staff, so this was “extra” money that was coming in.

Then, I lost my staff job (I lost the house, too). Suddenly, istock became a lot more important…..

Not only was it my main source of income for a short period, it gave me something to do during the day. It was my “job”. The reason to get out of bed in the morning.

Since then, I’ve been freelance, then back on staff a couple of times, and am currently freelance.

Over the last five years, my stock income has dropped around 50%, even though my number of images with them has increased around 300%. Not a very good return. A lot of people will think it stupid to continue.

I have a few reasons for continuing my relationship with istock:

1. It gives me something to do during the weeks that I’m not working. And, keeps me from going totally crazy when the phone hasn’t rung in a few weeks.

2. It keeps a small amount of $$$ coming in, no matter what else I do.

3. In a few years, my wife and I would like to take a year or two off to drive around/through Central and South America. The work that I put into stock now will pay dividends during that trip in that we’ll still have something of an income while we are traveling.

4. It keeps me involved. When I was younger, I worked with sooooo many photographers that let their passion die when photography became their job. Photographers that shot during the day, and then never picked up a camera any other time. Photographers that worked at the Getty Museum, but never cared to see any of the amazing work that was on exhibition.

5. Stock photography is something that I can, and will do the rest of my life.

6. Eventually, a number of my images have been picked up from istock by Getty Images (they bought istock a while ago), which lends a little more credence when I talk to other photographers.

Stock photography can also be very vexing. The best images don’t sell (at least mine don’t), but random ones do. Here is a great example:

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Here is a page from my istock account with info for a picture that I took of road construction. I was bored and sitting in my car, and thought “wth”……I jumped out and took the shot. If you look at the bottom, it shows that image being downloaded over 300 times. Yeah……I don’t get it either.

It’s not a horrible shot. It’s in focus. Ugly flat lighting. Shot close to wide open so it has some depth. One of those shots that you would never think would sell once, much less 300 times. But here’s the thing…..It fills a need. There aren’t that many photographs available of road construction signs. Around 2000 on istockphoto.com right now. And this one comes up on the first page. Search placement is huge….if one of your images comes up on the first page of a search. It will sell. Doesn’t matter how good or bad it is.

So there you have it. That’s my story. When I was assisting, I talked to a photographer that was making almost 200k in stock….in his spare time…..and I don’t think that was unusual. There are still guys out there making that, but they have specialized and that’s all they do. Nowadays, it’s simply one more revenue flow that helps me to make a living doing what I love.

Thanx for listening.

 

Lighting Test with Cyclist

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I have a love-hate relationship with fill in flash. I love the way that it separates a subject from a background. It helps add depth, lightens shadows. Lot’s of pluses…… But, I hate the way it’s so obvious. You normally get a very distinct shadow, or drop shadow, coming off the back of the subject, or to the right/rear if you happen to be shooting vertically.

If you are not familiar with this technique, it’s normally used when a subject is backlit (or maybe sidelit….or just plain underlit) outside. Normally you would get deep and dark shadows across their face or the part of your subject that is facing the camera….but with fill flash, you use your flash or strobe to “fill” in those shadows so that your subject is more evenly illuminated. Nowadays, a lot of DSLR’s and even point and shoot cameras have a Flash Fill setting that will give you the desired effect.

There are a few ways to get around the dreaded drop shadow that is the normal telltale sign of fill flash. The easiest is to simply point your flash at the ceiling or a nearby wall (if you are inside) or use a bounce reflector that hooks onto your flash (if you are outside). These work somewhat, but they don’t always eliminate the shadow. They also cut about two stops of power off your flash. And, if your flash isn’t adjustable directionally, you are out of luck.

A fellow photographer, Jim Bastardo, was telling me that he had started using a ringflash for some indoor lifestyle/party shoots that he had been doing. It didn’t have the obvious look of an on-camera flash, and didn’t necessitate him having to light an entire party scene to be able to move through it photographing lots of people. That got me wondering about other uses for this tool that is normally used for macro photography. A ringflash (or ringlight) hooks onto your camera and actually surrounds the lens so that the light seems to be coming from directly behind the lens….thereby eliminating any shadow.

I had purchased one, and was looking for a good way to test it out. I really enjoy combining auxiliary lighting with fast moving adventure sports, and  came up with the idea of shooting a cyclist on a road bike during a descent of a hill. I really wanted the photograph to have the feeling of speed, and there were two ways to achieve this.

1. Have the cyclist ride past me while I was on the side of the road and use a “panning” action to photograph him as he rode by. This would work but I was figuring on having to take 20-30 shots to get something that I would be happy with. That would mean my model would have to ride by me 20-30 times, then stop, turn around, and ride back uphill for the next attempt. Most of my friends are pretty good sports, but I figured that would really be pushing the limit……

2. The other option, and the one that I decided to use, was to sit in the back of a car with my camera and have the cyclist follow me down the road. I contacted my friend Justin Jensen who said he was up for modeling for me. I also asked my girlfriend (now wife) Jennie if she would be willing to volunteer her car and her driving skills.

We gathered at the top of the road to our local ski resort, and the three of us had a discussion on how to keep us all safe. Jennie had to drive with one eye on the road and one eye on the rear view mirror making sure that Justin was still behind us and that I hadn’t fallen out of the car. Justin had to keep approximately the same distance from the car the whole time and listen to me as I yelled instructions. I laid on my stomach in the back of the Subaru with the hatchback open and held my camera out, sometimes up to my eye, but sometimes as low as I could get it to the ground to get an aggressive angle.

I thought we might have to make 2-3 trips up and down the mountain, but in the end I was really happy with what we got during our first descent. We kept our speed between 20-25 MPH, and I shot at 1/30 of a second to get a little bit of blur in the background, but minimize it on Justin. The ringlight functioned perfectly, actually working as a keylight as we had waited until we were totally in shadow so that I didn’t have to fight the sun coming from different directions as we made our way around the switchbacks.

As you can see in the photo, Justin is illuminated a touch brighter than the background, which really makes him standout. There also isn’t any shadow coming from the ringlight, thereby eliminating any hints about how it was lit. There is a nice amount of blur in the foreground/background to give the feeling of speed. All in all, everything worked out perfectly and I was extremely happy with the results.

Thanx for listening.

 

Human Remains in Ntarama Church – Rwanda

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Did you see Hotel Rwanda (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0395169/)? If so, you are most likely aware of the Rwandan Genocide that took place back in the mid 90’s. If you haven’t seen it, you might want to check out this – http://www.unitedhumanrights.org/Genocide/genocide_in_rwanda.htm for some background……

In short, misguided civil and moral upheaval resulted in systematic killing of over 800,000 people by their family and neighbors, along with the assassination of Rwanda’s President. Most of these murders were undertaken with machete’s (they didn’t want to waste money on ammunition), and dead bodies that didn’t rot in the sun were dumped into mass graves.

Over twenty years later, and Rwanda is still dealing with the aftermath of this (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gacaca_court).

There is plenty to read about what the United Nations did or didn’t do during this time to stop what was going on. There are also a lot of parallels to what has been going on in Sudan. I’m not going to get into the politics of either situation here. What I would like to do, is tell you about the photograph above, which was taken in Rwanda in late 2006 while I was on a trip there……

Over a few weeks in Rwanda I was able to visit three different Genocide Memorials in and around the capital city of Kigali. One was the “official” memorial, complete with an audio tour and signs in english. The other two, however, were more simple….and in my eyes……much more powerful.

Ntarama Church was one of the churches where people fled because they erroneously felt that they would be protected. In the end, most of these people perished.

We arranged for a driver to give us a ride to the memorial, which is a story all unto itself….

When we arrived at the church/memorial the gate was locked, but a local woman/caretaker came and let us in. There was nobody else at the memorial, and we walked around in an eerie silence. There were no signs and no stories. There were no windows or lights, just sunshine filtering through elaborate bricks arranged to allow for air flow. Large holes in the concrete wall of the church shows where grenades exploded. The floor of the church was littered with personal belongings of victims that have remained since the massacre. In the rear of the church, wooden shelves held hundreds of human skulls.

Skeletons and bones were still being unearthed, and this bag had recently been dug up. They were to be cleaned up and added to the shelves with the others.

At the time, I was shooting a Nikon F3, with T-Max 3200, and printed this image using the “lith” process.

Another blog with more details: http://notesfromcamelidcountry.net/tag/ntarama-genocide-church-memorial/

As you can see from their images, some changes have been made at the church…..

 

Covershot for Bestop by Mark Waldron

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This image was captured during a shoot for Bestop in Moab Utah.
We have been shooting for Bestop for many years and have been on some great jeep trails with them on past shoots but this was one of the best! We were down in Moab for a Jeep Jamboree in February, as you know it can be 75 degrees and sunny or 15 degrees and snowing. We had scheduled a trip with Dan Mick aka “Father Time” the best guide for off roading in Moab. We were lucky enough to have picked the right day for this shoot as the day before it rained and the day after snow showers. These two jeeps had the newest tops at the time and Bestop wanted to showcase them out on the trail. We didn’t take off until 9:30 that morning because a couple of employees from jeep decided to tag along and test out a cool Israeli military 5 cylinder diesel jeep. Needless to say we got some killer images of these jeeps doing some crazy stuff, none of it they can use because “all 4 wheels must be on the ground” according to their lawyers. We got to the end of one of the trails that had a fantastic view of the valley and the Colorado River in the distance. The guys from Jeep let me climb on top of their jeep to capture this image as the clouds and light just worked out perfectly for about 5 min.
MW

http://studio2seven.com/

mbwjeep

“People only see what they are prepared to see” by Christopher Broughton

There is such a wonderful, insightful, and ingenious quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson that I try to keep firmly rooted in my subconscious when creating photographs. “People only see what they are prepared to see.”  During the summer of 2014 I had the opportunity to take a group of students from Brooks Institute to the Musée du Louvre while we were studying in Paris.  Visiting the Musée du Louvre and seeing the Mona Lisa is one of those opportunities that everyone should have on their bucket list. When we entered the room where the painting is displayed we soon realized that seeing the Mona Lisa was on everyone in the world’s bucket list too.  Some of the students were so turned off by the insanity that they almost bypassed the room entirely.  With a little mental preparation and persuasion we entered the back of the room and very, very slowly made our way towards the painting.broughton_c_monalisa_room

I have always found it fascinating photographing people observing and reacting to art.  I captured quite a few images of this mass pilgrimage procession of art seekers as we made our quest for the front of the room.  Upon finally reaching the railing protecting the Mona Lisa I took my obligatory photo of her and then for a brief moment I listened to my subconscious telling me to turn around. It was as if my inner self intuitively shouted“ turn around”, reminding me to always look beyond what I was expected to see. The split second I turned around and viewed the world from the Mona Lisa’s point of view I knew I was privilege to photograph something so obvious and special that few were prepared to see.

With both hands I raised my Sony Alpha a6000 above my head and with the 10-18mm f/4 zoom set to 10mm I tried to capture the sea of humanity that was descending upon the painting. I was able to fire off a few frames from Mona Lisa’s point of view before being whisked away through the protective railing and out of the room.

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From the moment I opened up the file on my computer I knew instantly that the image needed to be converted into a very large warm toned black and white print.  Working in black and white visually allowed for the conveyance of the idea that the people in the room were flowing out of The Wedding Feast at Cana painting by Veronese located at the rear of the room.  I made myself a 24×40 inch print that I put directly above my desk that still makes me remember how my jaw dropped the moment I turned around and witnessed the world from Mona Lisa’s point of view.

 

www.christopherbroughton.com

Christopher Broughton

 

  1. Always look behind yourself when you are photographing, your jaw might just drop!

PAK OU CAVES – LUANG PRABANG, LAOS – By Chris Klinge

Travel
In 2013 I traveled to Southeast Asia for about a month. It was my second time in Southeast Asia. The plan for this trip was to explore a bit more of Thailand, then head to Laos and Vietnam for most of the trip. Laos was probably one of the best Countries I’ve ever been to. I arrived in Luang Prabang and immediately fell for this sleepy little town. One day I decided to take a boat to the Pak Ou Caves north of Luang Prabang. I arranged for the round trip boat ride and went to the river to find my boat. It was an interesting morning. I was shuttled from boat to boat, and finally told that I should stay on the final
boat they put me in. I was confused by the entire process but ultimately decided that these guys must know what they are doing. I was on a boat with about 10 other people, and we were off.

It was beautiful scenery down the river. The boat was a bit uncomfortable and noisy, but I was loving it all. After about an hour I started to get nervous. I thought for sure we should have been to the caves after an hour. No. Then another hour passed and I thought maybe I got on the wrong boat. Started to get more nervous. Then we finally came upon the caves. I knew I was in the right spot because there were a lot of tourists around. I climbed the steep stairs to the lower cave and was immediately surprised by
the hundreds of Buddha’s placed everywhere in this cave. It was really dark, but I managed to get some great photographs. Then I made my way up, what seemed like 200 stairs, to the upper cave. That cave had less Buddha’s in it, but still very impressive. It is an amazing spot, for sure.

I managed to get this photograph in the lower cave. I loved the way the light was coming in and barely illuminating the gold on one eye. I also loved the cobwebs backlit from the sunshine coming in to the edge of the cave. After getting some photos, it was back on the boat for another 2 hour ride back to Luang Prabang. It was a great day in Laos. One of my most memorable experiences from that trip.

Chris Klinge

http://www.giraffeboyproductions.com/home-page

Four Princesses

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This image feels like it could have been shot in the early 1900’s, but in fact it was taken on my first trip to Amsterdam in the early 2000’s.

We were on our way to a cafe for dinner, when I saw these four little girls in princess dresses walking the same way as us, but on the other side of the street. I had two cameras with me….one was an old Holga (plastic camera, known for soft lenses and light leaks) that was loaded with T-Max 3200 film. The other was my trusty Nikon F3 with color slide film. I immediately pulled the Holga out of my jacket pocket as I noticed that they were crossing the street and would be slightly in front of us. Shooting with the Holga was s double edged sword. On one hand, it was easy as there was very little control over exposure or focus. On the other hand, it was extremely difficult for the exact same reasons.

As they crossed the street, I was able to get one shot as they made their way in front of us. If I’m being totally truthful, I never saw the bicyclist until I had the negative in my hand. He was an exceptionally happy accident that really adds balance. Afterward, I was trying to figure out if I thought I had a decent exposure….but in the end it was too difficult and I just crossed my fingers. I was able to get two exposures of them with my Nikon before they ducked into an ice cream shop for a birthday party. The images are okay, but show none of the energy of this image from the side where you can see them pulling the adult with them in their hurry to get to the pary.

The film was pushed two stops, and then I printed the image using the “lith” process. (http://www.lithprint.com/Lith_Print_Introduction.htm) This adds to the graininess of the image, and also helps give it that “period” feel and warmth. Lith printing is a long and involved process, but gives you something that (I feel) is unobtainable with digital. GASP!!

The final image you see here is a scan of an 8″x8″ print.

Thanx for listening!

Stay Loco – by Rick Amado

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This image had been marinating in my head for a while. It started with a weird dream I had; I was at a car show on a huge field of grass, just walking around reveling in the orgy of kandy and metal-flake and next thing you know, the grass erupts in flames. Everyone scrambling to drive their cars off the burning field while I stand there taking photos, immune to the conflagration. It was one of those vivid dreams that you can’t get out of your head. In the following days/weeks/months, I caught myself constantly looking for burned-out locations where I might shoot a car but nothing seemed right, I wanted fire and all I could find was crispy aftermath.
One day, I was talking with my friend Rob McDonald, he had just finished building his ’60 Chevy, “Stay Loco” and we were discussing location possibilities to shoot a magazine feature. I mentioned how cool it would be to get the wagon in front of a grass fire or burning building but short of luck or arson, we’d have to come up with something else. Turned out Rob has a friend who’s a honcho at the Kern County Fire Department. He made a phone call and managed to get us access to their training facility along with a station crew and their equipment for a ‘training session’. They piled some pallets in their concrete burn-building, doused them in diesel and lit them off just as the sun was hitting the horizon.

Rick Amado

http://rickamado.com