When Joe Philipson asked me to accompany him to Japan Nite at The Viper Room over the phone from Austin while he was hanging out at the SXSW Music Festival I just said yes. I didn't really even know what the heck he was talking about. Seriously... it sounded cool... but I still had no idea. It wasn't, in fact, until we actually got to The Viper Room on the night of ??the concert that I even found out exactly what was going on. A bunch of Japanese bands playing one after the other at a really cool LA venue. There was Chatmonchy, JinnyOops, Red Bacteria Vacuum, Omodaka and OKAMOTO'S. Ok, this I could dig... if I like the music.
My favorite band was JinnyOops, although the version I loved was not the full band... as they were missing their horn players... but I do still enjoy their recorded music very much!
I brought my iPhone and the Olympus E-P2 that I have on loan from Olympus... and was amazingly impressed with both cameras. I haven't really used the iPhone for much, but recently downloaded Hipstamatic app and have been shooting some fun shots with it... and I used it on the crazily lit stage with some pretty cool results.
OKAMOTO'S via Olympus E-P2 :
JinnyOops via Olympus E-P2 :
You can see the entire set HERE.
I'm looking forward to shooting more with the iPhone and a LOT more with Hipstamatic. I didn't do much with the Olympus this night... but it's been amazing otherwise... so some great images should be forthcoming.
Today is April 1st, and the first day of a few projects I'm trying to start or revive. One of them is this attempt at a daily written blog. The idea came from 750words.com, which is a site that reminds you and allows you to write 750 (or more) words a day... the idea being that if you aren't held accountable by someone or something to do it... you probably won't.
My first writings were just stream of consciousness. I let words just flow from my brain into my fingers and really tried not to think about it too much. Since I had just gone through a breakup... most of the words were about her. That was stuff I'm glad was not for publication at all. I'm a very open person... but honestly not many people out there want to read about those types of things from someone who is hurting and feeling insecure and down about themselves. Then again, the right kind of person would take a lot of motivation from it. They could compare themselves to me... and feel great in comparison! Alas... I'm keeping those docs to myself.
The other great thing about the site is that it gives great statistics on what you're writing. You get a word cloud, some pie charts which gauge your mood based on the words you use, and some other pretty cool statistics that I'm sure will become more interesting to me as time goes on and I actually have more to be analyzed.
There are also the monthly challenges. Each month you are challenged to write 750 words every single day. There is no way to cheat... so you really just have to do it. I was delighted and surprised to see that my friend Rudy Jahchan was on the short list of 10 people who completed the task last month. Way cool and very motivational. There are a lot of reasons I think daily writing is important... and I'm totally not going to go over them at all today.
Instead I'd like to try and describe the things I might want to talk about during these 750 words a day... because as of this moment I have no idea but if I put some stuff down in writing, right now, as I think of it... there might be a chance I'll somewhat stick to it in the future and provide either entertainment, information or perhaps mild amusement to anyone who happens across these writings. I suppose I could also spend the time sprinkling SEO keywords in a dense enough manner that for each 750 words about 6% of them are the name of a product, and at the top of the page I could have a link to that product on Amazon. How awesome would that be???
Ok, so probably not very awesome.
Instead I think it would be most useful if I literally just write the things that are on my mind. Those things usually revolve around just a few different topics. There's photography... of course. Boy do I have lots to say about photography. I originally started this blog in 2002 with posts about my new love of street photography... unfortunately in the multiple moves the content has taken the photos themselves have been lost to the ether... I no longer even have the original scans (they were all shot on film back then). All that remain are a bunch of posts mostly about gear lust... which I'm proud to say I no longer feel much need to write about these days.
I'll also write lots about my thoughts on video, DSLR video and filmmaking. Mostly because besides photography I'm mostly involved with this stuff on a daily basis, and half of what Lan and I teach and get hired to do is all about video. We were lucky to get into web video before web video was the thing to do (December, 2004) so we have just about as much experience as most people can have on this specific topic. Though things have come a long way (YouTube is so easy a child can upload their videos now) there's still a lot of other factors that people don't understand or know much about... so I'll likely write about these things too.
Lastly... well not lastly but lastly for now... I'm going to start giving my thoughts on industry-related topics. I'm involved in a few industries... but they all revolve around web marketing and web deliverables and web promotion... and there are lots of things to say about all of that.
Ok, so here are my first 750 words. Actually I'm now at 777.
These are some of the stats from 750words.com, click the image to see all the stats:
I am all for marketing yourself in the smartest and most creative ways possible. I think people need to stand out in a sea of competition... show their personality or whatever else makes them unique and attractive to hire. We all already know that Facebook and Twitter are great for this. You get to build a fanbase who is at least interested in the little things you have to say... your blog posts (Twitter feeds are the new RSS, unfortunately)... your photos... pretty much all the stuff you upload, be it personal or business related.
The problem is with people who don't understand what to do with their existing audience and instead of offering something of value to them... or strengthening their bond and loyalty and "fandom" of them... they instead alienate them with constant badgering and repeat messages.
Yes, it's true that they used to say you have to repeat something 7 times in a commercial (I think it was 7) in order to get people to remember it. Yes, it's true that the reason you see a commercial more than once on television during the same 30 minute show is because people get convinced of things through repetition. The difference is that people are willing to deal with those ads as a "payment" for watching an entertaining (hopefully) show. What are you offering them to follow you on Twitter or be your Facebook fan?
What Value Do You Offer?
Are you only posting things about yourself? Are you only posting notices about your own business and your blog posts and the last photos you shot? If your intended audience is your family and you just want them to know what you're doing in life... that is fine. If your intended audience are true fans of yours who hang on every detail in your life... well that's weird but it's also fine. But if you're attempting to build a follower base who you can sell your products and services to... basically building a client base who will know about your latest and greatest... you're going to need to do more than just promote yourself.
I used to follow too many people on Twitter. I say too many not because I think there's a threshold over which you can't successfully pay attention to... but because I was following people that my eyes would automatically skip over in my Twitter client because I knew without reading their tweet that I wasn't interested in what they were saying (most likely because you always say the same thing or only talk about you, you and you). So... that made no sense and I eventually just got rid of them. If they had ever offered anything that entertained, educated, inspired or somehow moved me... I wouldn't naturally skip over them at the sight of their avatar.
I am not saying I'm an expert at this. I am guilty of the same sometimes. I'm definitely not saying that I entertain, educate, inspire or move people... but I do try. And considering that Mr. Tweet shows me that for every 30 people or so who add me, around 10 drop me... I know I'm not always successful (though at least half of these are marketers trying to inflate their numbers by following loads of people and unfollowing the ones who don't follow back).
So you have a new product or service... or a new contest... or a new whatever... or maybe not even something new... and you announce it on Twitter and see that 10 of your 1,000 followers responded in some way. Awesome!
So later in the day you announce it again to get the people who weren't paying attention in the morning... and sweet! Another 4 people responded.
So late that night you again announce it... so you can reach the followers who are night owls and don't pay much attention to Twitter during the day. 1 more response, not bad!
Ok... now STOP. At least for a while.
Three times in the same day is already pretty bad for the same exact announcement unless it's something amazing... but it makes sense when you've got something big going on... however seeing people post the same thing day after day after day is just extremely annoying, and puts you in the category of people I will start to automatically skip over in Tweetie when I'm reading tweets... and you will eventually be cut when I do my quarterly cleanup of my following.
There are lots of exceptions to this... ongoing contests being one of them. Especially ones where you need daily votes. There's still a point at which it's too much, but I appreciated when Mike Ambs was doing this every couple days or so to get Babelgum votes because I did want to vote but without his tweets I'd likely not remember... or more recently Brigitte Dale is promoting her daily need for votes to win the "Good Mood Gig". These contests allow people to vote over and over every day... so a daily or so reminder through the short duration of the contest isn't a bad thing.
Announcing the availability of a workshop as the seats fill up is also a pretty decent exception in my opinion... but again you just need to not overdo it. Once you've said something 3-5 times on Twitter you can trust that most of the people who care at all about things you say have seen it.
There are lots of other exceptions... and I think that uncommonly used thing called common sense will be able to handle your decisions on these on a case-by-case basis.
Facebook Fan Invites
Facebook fan invites are the reason I started typing this blog post... after venting a bit on Twitter and creating my new rule.
If you send me an invitation to be your fan when I'm already your Facebook "friend", I'm going to unfollow you.
This makes sense to me. I'm already your "friend" (I put that in quotes because a large portion of my Facebook "friends" are people who I don't know but who added me because I am part of their industry and have many OTHER "friends" in common. I'm totally cool with that... it's a good way to network and see what's going on in your industry and I enjoy having the extra base of people who will see a certain percentage of my updates). Being your Facebook friend means I will see your announcements and new photos and other things you post about. I'll see them and I'll act on them if I choose to. That means I'm already part of your audience.
Don't Ruin a Good Thing
If you've already gotten me (and all your other "friends") to accept your friend invite... you should be pretty happy. We are now a part of your audience. Build upon it, cultivate it... and help it grow. You are NOT going to make me happy by now trying to get me to become your Facebook "fan".
By sending me notices every week or even month to become your fan you are essentially alienating me, your willing audience, and creating a barrier between your information and my desire to receive and process information. It's annoying. It's bad business. It's essentially not very smart.
Use that effort instead to try and convert people who AREN'T your audience into Facebook friends or fans. Otherwise you're just ruining a good thing you already have going with people you are already connected to.
BUT don't ask me how to do it though, cuz I have no idea. I am identifying what's wrong here (and it's still just MY opinion)... but have no solution to offer another route. Do you? I'd love to hear it in the comments below.
UPDATE 1/12/2011: I have a much more detailed and newer Dropbox review on The Bui Brothers site. Although pretty much all of my recent clients know about Dropbox (because I pretty much force them to use it so they can get their deliverables) I feel as though there are still tons of people I know who do not... and this post is for them. Or perhaps I should say it is for you, reader, if that suits you better.
Dropbox is a file sharing service that's also an online backup service that's also an online gallery/proofing service that's also... well it's pretty much whatever you want it to be.
It works on Mac and Windows (which is perfect since I run Windows 7 on my netbook and Snow Leopard on my MacBook Pro and Leopard on my G5) and has a web interface as well as a desktop component... and they recently just released their extremely useful iPhone app. All of these elements are important in their own way and I use them all. I'll try to sum up how in a short-ish post.
How I Abandoned Mobile Me
Mobile Me is awesome. Mobile Me sucks. As a place to safely store files online, available anywhere... it's great. Upload/download speeds are always great, I have access to files anywhere... and I can even upload files and send out links that will expire in a certain amount of time.
The thing I used most is the gallery feature... their galleries are the BEST for delivering client proofs where you're not trying to get print sales from the photos. They look good, are easy to navigate, and allow people to easily look at large numbers of photos in a variety of ways.
There is also the Find My iPhone feature... cool and sometimes really useful, especially if your phone is stolen.
The rest of the service isn't so great for me. I don't use the email... the syncing is replaced by the free (and so far more reliable and open) Google Sync (computer to computer to iPhone)... the web interface is ALWAYS ridiculously slow... and it costs $99/year for all that greatness.
DropBox offers 2GB of storage on your account for free. It shows up as a folder in Finder (or Explorer) and you can create subfolders just as any other folder.
Store and Sync
The main feature of Dropbox is the automatic sync of all the files and folders in your dropbox with any other computers which you have dropbox installed. Drop a file in dropbox and in the amount of time it takes to upload to the server then back down to your other computers... it's there. (ok that sentence actually made it sound like a long time, but it's not)
What I use it for, however, is mostly for collaboration and for delivering client files. Every folder in your dropbox has sharing rights... and you can right click (ctrl+click) the folder and choose to share... it will open the web interface and allow you to send invites to whoever you want to share it with. This means when you drop files into the shared folder they will automatically download to the folders of everyone that folder is shared with, and they receive a notification on their screen.
Keep in mind, everything you are currently sharing in your folders AND your clients or colleagues count towards your total usage. You get 2GB for free and can get additional 3GB by referring other users (hint hint, yes that was part of my motivation for this post, 250MB additional for each person you sign up). Or if you need lots of storage you can pay $9.99/mo for 50GB or $19.99/mo for 100GB.
Another great feature of Dropbox is that it saves each version of each file you upload. So if you are collaborating on a file with someone and editing straight out of the folder... if you make any mistakes you can just go back into history and pull the version you want. These versions are stored for a month! Which means you also have...
Not only are you able to back up important files (2GB worth or more, depending) but even once you've deleted them from Dropbox, they remain in backup for 30 days. It's like an online Time Machine (the Apple kind, not the HG Wells kind).
The iPhone app for Dropbox was recently released, and is pretty darn awesome. Multiple times I've dropped a huge file in Dropbox but needed to leave right away... and wanted to be able to send a link to the file once it was uploaded. When on the road I was able to check the status and then send a sharing link once it was up. Nice.
You can also view content and mark files as favorites for frequent reference (pricing lists, contracts, etc...), and there's an upload button that allows you to upload photos and videos directly from the iPhone.
Viewing photos is also made super simple from the app... just open a photo and you can easily navigate from photo to photo using the navigation at the bottom of the screen... or by the standard swipe gesture.
Send a link to any item via email... and Dropbox automatically creates the link and sets it to expire in a month.
If you create folders in your photos folder that comes pre-created in Dropbox and fill them with photos... you get instant galleries that you can share. They galleries aren't quite as cool as Mobile Me galleries... but they are fast and easy to navigate. They work great for proofing and easy image sharing.
So... like I said... download Dropbox... and get your friends to join... and your clients... and your mom. Share files with ease.
These are the ways I use Dropbox, do you have any to add?
Aardvark is a service that allows you to ask a question to the community... and it will send that question to someone who is available and might know the answer (based on categories that its members sign up for) and then typically provides you an answer within 5 minutes by one of these other community members. They have a nice little iPhone app that makes asking these questions pretty easy wherever you are.
I tried out the service for a little while... but I never actually asked it a question... though I was able to provide answers to a few.
While some of the questions I saw were really legitimate things you'd need to ask in order to find an answer... MANY of them just pointed to a bigger question...
Are We Really This Lazy?
I knew there was something wrong when most of the questions I didn't have answers to I knew I could find with a quick Google search... and I did. I found that I could answer quite a few of the questions with a simple Google search (though in my frustration with these "lazy" people I didn't answer the questions for them, yes cuz I'm a jerk). Other questions, like "is anyone hiring in Chicago, IL?" or "what is your favorite song this year?" seem to be out of place on the site... which left less than half that I thought needed to be legitimately answered on Aardvark by someone else (some questions asked for specific recommendations for products and services... and these seemed totally useful to me if you're the type of person who doesn't LOVE research like I do).
The people asking these questions are already online, obviously know how to use the internet... and have enough time that they can log on to the site and ask the question and wait 5 minutes or so for an answer... so couldn't they just Google it?
I have been using the internet since 1995... and I'm fairly geeky. I've Googled (yes I've been using it as a verb forever) things thousands of times... and perhaps I've gotten a lot of practice. They say it takes 10,000 hours to become a true master of something... and I wonder how many hours I've spent searching for things on the internet... but I really don't feel that my Google skills are so much more powerful than the average internet user. Still, these questions are being asked on a forum
I can't remember, however, the last time I had a question that I couldn't answer with a Google search. Obviously there are types of questions that can't be fully answered with facts... but I'm talking about questions that have simple, factual answers.
We Are To Blame
I am definitely not blaming Aardvark for this problem. I think their service is really great... and I haven't spent THAT much time on it so I have probably not been exposed to the many great questions that probably exist on the site. My frustration is more with people in general. The truth is that I've felt just as frustrated with people on forums and other places where these questions typically surface... I just never really voiced it until now.
I do think services like Aardvark and specific forums like the new videoWTF are awesome places to learn from others and get questions answered for things that aren't so commonly documented online... and there are a lot of those things when it comes to really specific industry or trade related questions (I've answered some tough questions on videowtf.com)... but I get really annoyed when I log into Aardvark and see someone asking "what's the capital of Alaska?".
Or am I wrong?
Lan shot a whole set of photos... here is one of the cooler ones. You can see the rest HERE.
(see update at bottom of post, 11/24/2010)
I heard about this iPhone app called TiltShift this morning (though it's been out for some time now)... and had to try it out for myself. From what I've seen there are a few of them out there... but this one looked to me to be the most interesting one. It's $1.99 on the Apple app store... so you can see my first impressions here before taking the plunge. ;)
Tilt shift movements in photography were originally provided on large-format view cameras... then Nikon introduced a lens for 35mm cameras in the 60's and Canon in the 70's. It was originally used to correct perspective shifts in photography such as in architecture... but most recently tilt shift used much more often for creative effect. When used properly you can make real-life scenes look like miniatures or toys... which is fun.
Unfortunately tilt-shift lenses aren't cheap. Canon's tilt shift lenses are both over $1k and I'm sure Nikon's are around the same. So... people usually resort to Photoshop. You usually can't get the same effect out of your images... but if they are shot perfectly and Photoshopped perfectly... you can get the tilt shift look without having to actually buy the lens (and learn to use it properly).
Enter the iPhone and the billion apps for it. Now you can do tilt shift photography right on your phone... and it actually looks pretty neat. Not perfect, not professional... and certainly not like a real tilt-shift lens. It is, however, very cool for something that can take less than a minute from capture to Tweeting your latest faux tilt shift masterpiece... and all from your beloved iPhone.
Check out the TiltShift app on iTunes. For $1.99 it's pretty darn cool.
These are images I shot today at Disneyland and edited directly in the TiltShift app.
Michael Krause, author of Tiltshift app, emailed me to explain some things and let me know about the recent update!
"To clarify the erratic behavior of the save function and the missing want-half-size-dialog:
The dialog appears only for photos that take a long time to process (more that 20 seconds) for example. This only happens with high-resolution photos and lens blur. What probably happened to you was that you saved a high-resolution photo in half-size and you got the dialog. Later you loaded this saved half-sized photo and saved it again. Because the source was no longer high-resolution it was automatically saved as is without asking for resolution reduction again.
Regarding the Bokeh possibility this is not well documented but the three main points are: 1) Lens blur must be on. 2) Bokeh is best with night time images with isolated light points 3 )The blur level and blooming factor must be high enough that blooming kicks in.
A third issue you mentioned was that the parameters are not reset when loading a new image. You can reset all parameters at once with a tap-and-hold gesture on the button to the left of the slider."
Version 2.1 was released on Oct 21, 2010.
Thanks for the answers and for the new software update, Michael!
She made the music in Garage Band using Magic Garage Band. If you have never used Magic Garage Band... give it a look. We have used it many times to create music for videoblogs, with great results. It's quick and easy... and offers really high-quality results, although not that much in terms of variety.
This is a nice preview of some of the videos you'll soon see coming from our trip... explanations and tutorials on how we shot!
This post is part of the Hawaii Fusion Trip 2009.
The grid actually worked out PERFECTLY. I was amazed at how great it was. I am making two more, one with longer straw pieces for a tighter beam, and one that's a little wider as well. The one I made was right in the middle... and ended up being perfect for a general flash grid that lasted me the trip.
What you'll need:
- black drinking straws (I got mine from Panera Bread)
- Quick Grip glue (I got it at Michael's)
- black duct tape (I bought black Duck Tape from Michael's)
- cardboard (I used thin product packaging cardboard
- a ruler is good, but I didn't use one
- black marker (I was going to use it to black out the edges of the cardboard, but didn't show that in the video)
The Quick Grip Glue was very key to the success. I've read a number of posts (the one I used to make mine was HERE) and a lot seem to have trouble with durability. The glue I used made this thing nearly indestructible, it's holding up perfectly by being completely strong without being brittle... and using the duct tape around it makes the cardboard somewhat tear-proof.
This first example showed me that if you truly value your time and don't have a lot to spare... this probably isn't the most cost saving project. If you have a little time on your hands, however, you're easily able to make 3 of these in less than a couple hours... saving about $70. To most amateurs and even quite a few professionals this is TOTALLY worth it.
You might also be worried that the final product will look too unprofessional... but if so... you're likely worried about the wrong things. Cover it with black and it's good enough, no one will look closely enough to see that it's homemade... and if they do you tell them that you make your own because no one out there makes exactly what you need. If YOU are professional... and you deliver professional results... that's truly all you need to worry about. Pros jimmy-rig things all the time, it's a constant necessity.
Here is the glue I used (I get 4% of purchases if you buy):
If you prefer purchasing grids and want the same results, I recommend HONL Photo's grids. You can purchase them below through Amazon:
Stay tuned for actual results from the grid in Hawaii!
This post is part of the Hawaii Fusion Trip 2009.