Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Ready for Christmas?

I am not ready for Christmas. Actually, I am... but I'm not.

Let me explain. Each year, there are two events which I have plenty of warning about, but which invariably catch me by surprise. The first, in September, is my Birthday - you would have thought I'd get used to it by now, what with it having always fallen on the same date every year for as long as I can remember. This year, I remembered about 5 days before; last year I managed 2 weeks.

The second calendar-stopper is Christmas. Same deal here - all year to think about it, to prepare for it, to approach it nice and gently. But no. I've only just realised that it is now just a little over 1 week to go! Have I bought presents yet? Nope. Have I arranged where I will be at what time? Nope. Surely I have got all the decorations out and festivised (actual word?) my cosy little abode? Nope. I'm rubbish.

But guess what, I have a bunch of pre-prepared excuses! What a surprise, eh? Here goes:
  • I am still busy with work and I have to make sure all those loose ends are tied up before the Big Day. Then I can start to relax. And besides, I can fit my various Christmas duties in easily. I hope.
  • I always leave my shopping until the last week before Christmas. What can I say, I thrive on pressure!
  • I will do my decorations - this weekend. Promise. Most probably with Southern Comfort in hand and Christmas Vacation on screen. 'The tree was wonky when I got it' - that'll be my story and I'll be sticking to it!
I could go on... But that'll do for now, I think.

Happy Christmas, everyone!

Sunday, 14 December 2008

My big Mac dilemma

It's been a strange week, and something just don't feel right. This could have something to do with the bout of food poinoning I received a few days ago, or the tail-end of a bug picked up somewhere along the way. Possibly, who knows.

What I can be sure of is that, for the first time, I have been having real (yes, genuine 'oooh...!') thoughts about the 'M' word. Quite, quite unusual. I'm not sure I can even bring myself to admit this, but here goes...

Deep breath...

I think I want a Mac.

There, I've said it. Are ya happy now?! For all those of you who have been saying "Just you wait... you'll soon come around...", well, don't go demanding your winnings from the sweepstake just yet; it's just at the 'on the cards' stage at the moment. But believe me when I tell you that this revelation has come as just as much of a shock to me as it has to you!

So what's going on? Why the change of heart? Well, you know, there comes a time when you just get fed up of shouting at your desktop for the umpteenth time because - in spite of doing 101 'optimisation' processes such as defrags, scan disks, antivirus and spyware checks - the only way the damn thing could process your work any slower would be if it was physically switched off at the mains!

Do you sense some bitterness on my part?! Hmm... Lord knows, I don't have so much hair on my head these days, thanks to a cruel trick of genetics - and quite honestly, I can't afford to pull any more out!

Here's what I do know (or, at least, here are 6 things that I'm led to believe by every Mac owner and his dog):

  1. Macs never (or very rarely) go wrong; they're stable and they just work
  2. Because Macs don't go wrong, they work out cheaper in the long run
  3. Macs are the photographer's friend
  4. Macs would make my life so much more pain free, thanks to their batch process facilities
  5. Macs are very simple to use, even more so than PCs
  6. Macs are so intuitive that I would not have to run a PC alongside in the beginning
Coincidentally, I've been talking more and more in depth about my dilema with a friend this week, too. (you know who you are!). She makes a good case for the pro-Mac camp and quite honestly I can't seem to find any sort of argument to put up in defense. My only 'safety net' with PCs is that because I've been using them for years, I'm pretty good at muddling through the typical hiccups that happen from time to time. But, frankly, that doesn't seem to count for much when you've tried everything and still the problem in question doesn't get resolved.

So here's where I'd like your input by following the Comments link below, please. If you're a recent convert from PC to Mac, let me know why you jumped and what your workflow/state-of-mind experience has been like since. If you switched some years ago, tell me why. And if you are one of the many Mac users who feels a bit giddy just at the sight or mention of a PC, please clean yourself up and then explain why I should stop arsing about, stop kidding myself and just get on with it.


Saturday, 13 December 2008

Web Wise

Does anyone still use traditional libraries these days? You know, places where you can go and actually hold actual books in an actual building designed for just such a purpose! Well, I do - albeit on increasingly rare occasions!

I was in my local library today, where I picked up an interesting looking book called "Web Presence - Creating an eBusiness out of chaos". I've not had a chance to sit down properly to explore it in any great depth yet, but it looks like it just might present a few nuggets of useful information.

The general consensus these days, it would appear, is that you'd have to be a fool not to use at least one of the myriad online tools as an integral part of your business promotion/marketing plan. Sure, some types of enterprise might argue that they really don't have a need for it, for whatever reason. And that's fine... although something of a shame and a missed opportunity, I think.

By now, I hope, it is clear where I stand on this. If you still don't know, maybe you should check out the main GBP website, our YouTube channel, or the front page of this Blog in order to see how we are spreading the word further.

The more I look into how I can develop my business activities, the type of work I undertake, and the way I supply my imagery, the further I am drawn down the internet superhighway. On the right here, you will see some of the blogs which I regularly follow; these are of interest to me - and possibly/hopefully they will be to you, too - and what is really exciting is that we just don't know where our associations with them might lead. I have already formed new synergies and re-established past connections this way alone, and from what I can tell, there is a virtually limitless range of possibilities to be explored in the future.

Now, it's long been known that our American counterparts appear to be much more open to the 'cross-site, open-networking' potential of the net. And a great deal of these guys have been sharing information left, right and centre for years. One of my favourite exponents of this, as you may know, is Chase Jarvis, who recently posted a video entitled "Making The Web Work For You". I would recommend you take a look because, in Chase's own words, "
If you're at all thinking of blogging, video, the web, or sharing information, then you will pick up a thing or two, guaranteed. Keep in mind, it's almost entirely unedited. But there are some nuggets in there. Nothing flashy , just a couple of us guys talking about blogging and how we use the web in our profession. There's a Q+A session at the end as well". Incidentally, it also features David Hobby (who you may know as Mr. Strobist) and David Nightingale.

Let me know what you think of that video. And if you have any suggestions/ideas/recommendations of your own, please feel free to put them in the comments section below so that everyone can benefit from them.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Business is a family affair

Another 'behind-the-scenes' video for you today, which was shot on the G9 at a recent assignment where I was asked to produce some simple portraits for a local directory company. As is often the case with small- to medium-sized 'local' businesses, my client on this occasion works out of a home office. Accordingly, this was a good, logical starting point for shooting the pictures.

I often like to work 'on-site' like this; with familiar surroundings, sitters are always relaxed and any props or information that might be required is always on-hand.

There really is not a lot to say about this shoot, actually, as it was very, very simple. One camera (Nikon D200), one lens (80-200mm f/2.8), one light (
800-watt tungsten lamp, bounced off the white ceiling) and, for simplicity, the living room wall assumed the role of neutral background.

Here's the footage, more info below:

You'll notice that there was quite a lot of activity throughout the duration of the shoot. Given the flexibility of my schedule that particular week, and that of the client, this one took place on a Saturday morning - just when there was houseful of kids, friends and relatives! But that's ok, because
(as is also often the case) the business plays a big part in family life - so it was nice to get everyone involved. The more the merrier!

There was very little post-production required on this set of pictures. The colour was balanced to reduce most of warm cast produced by the light (I left some warmth in, to boost skin tones), a standard amount of sharpening, and no cropping as we wanted to leave the images full-frame to allow plenty of flexibility for this when they were arranged, by the client, in the 'Editor's Letter' section in the publication.

Please watch this video!

I had never heard of Randy Pausch until I stumbled upon this video of his last lecture, presented earlier this year to Carnegie Mellon University in the US.

But I am so glad I found it.

Straight up, you should know that it has nothing to do with photography; but I really recommend you take a look when you have a bit of spare time.

And please, tell me what you think.