The Visual Advocate Blog


Leave a comment

Morocco here I come

Tomorrow I board a plane for Morocco where I will be shooting  for a tourism company, scouting places for future workshops and doing some personal projects. I am hoping to have internet that is stable and fast enough to post images daily and even a wallpaper for the month (since I am horribly behind on this!). 

While I was tempted to try to watch Casablanca before I left, I didn’t get to it because this past month has been crazy with a million different little things. One of these things was lunch appointment with one of the lead collaborators of Eye See Media, an independent media company I recently discovered through a friend. Do make sure to check out what they are doing because they are telling some amazing stories that need to be told.

Also, check out these videos below made by some other friends who are great multi-media storytellers:

More than just bread-Nate Watkins

Dance the past into the future-Mario Mattei

 


Leave a comment

Update on the November India workshop

You will not want to miss this exciting trip to India where we will be exploring culturally rich and colorful neighborhoods and cities across Northwest India.

On May 30th I wrote a post about an a November workshop in India and I wanted to let you know we have finalized a price and the travel details, which you can find at The Flat Planet Travel.

Also, I am excited to announce that BlackRapid and Thinktank Photo have agreed to give free gear to all the participants, which is awesome because these guys make killer gear!

We are only taking 12 participants so if you are wanting to go on this trip don’t waste time in signing up!

Happy shooting!


Leave a comment

Guest Post: Gary Dowd on excellence in our craft

Gary Dowd is Humanitarian Photographer, Producer, Writer, Creative Director and Photojournalist extraordinaire!

Anyone who knows me knows I love networking almost as much as I love photography. One of the latest folks I have connected up with is an excellent photographer and multi-media producer named Gary Dowd.  We have had great discussions about how photography and visual storytelling is changing and more. We are even working on planning some future workshops together which I am excited about.

As I got to know Gary I asked him to guest blog on something he was really passionate which he has been kind enough to do. I know you are going to enjoy his thoughtful ideas here on excellence in our craft. Enjoy!

My 1967 Triumph Bonneville 650 was very “customized”, a nice way of saying it was a patchwork of parts all put together.

This was my 1967 Triumph Bonneville 650. I loved that motorcycle. Riding it, I felt like I was a part of a grand history and tradition. Actors Steve McQueen and James Dean were synonymous with Triumph motorcycles and to me, the British motorcycle was the standard of mechanical excellence.

Looking back, I’m probably very lucky I survived owning that bike. It was very “customized” – a nice way of saying it had parts from this, parts from that – and not all were designed to play nice together. The Triumph I rode was no longer an example of excellence – but it wasn’t until years later that realized it. It was a make-do attempt and at best, a mediocre one at that.

Mediocrity in any given area or discipline can masquerade as excellence. It happens all the time. Sometimes it’s intentional; sometimes it’s a lack of knowledge. Either way, only until we understand context and gain knowledge can we then recognize the difference between the two. And that is the crux or point of a decision we have to make; accept mediocrity and settle for less than our best effort – or reject it and strive for excellence.

As visual storytellers we must learn to differentiate between mediocre and excellent images if we are to tell visually and emotionally compelling stories.

As I look back at my early efforts in photography and video, I see a lot or work that would be a stretch to even call mediocre. But as I’ve grown in my understanding and experience, so has my understanding of what excellence should look like. Now I simply can’t be satisfied with anything that is less than my very best effort. If I don’t consider it to be excellent, then how can I expect anyone else to?

Now, let me take a moment to clarify one thing; I do think there is latitude for personal interpretation of what excellence is, especially in the creative arts. One man’s creative excellence may be misunderstood or misinterpreted by others. This isn’t the excellence I’m referring to. I think most would agree that in photography, video, and other creative mediums, there are standards and best practices that help us define excellence.

So why is mediocrity tolerated in our chosen and beloved craft, or anywhere else for that matter? As the poster says, “It takes a lot less time and people won’t notice the difference.” As a choice, mediocrity is characterized by a complete lack of self-criticism. Sometimes, lack of self-criticism is simply born of laziness. My advice? Run away as fast as you can.

Unintentional mediocrity is different. In scientific terms, it’s the “bell curve principal” at work. Darwin’s cousin, Sir Francis Galton, called it “The Supreme Law of Unreason”. Simply stated, if you take a sample of 100 random people and measure anything – height, weight, blood pressure, IQ, for ex., the majority will fall towards the mean, or middle, with a few individuals clearly above or below the norm. Simply put, I think that the majority of people simply don’t know any better. Which also means that they can learn.

So where’s am I going with all this? As the cost of technology has decreased, more and more people have access to some pretty sophisticated equipment. Now, almost anyone has access to hardware and software that only a few years ago was available to a chosen few – typically ones who studied and practiced to become masters of their craft. Today, if you want to believe all the ad hype, anyone can be a master if he or she has the right tool. Technically speaking, that can be true – to a point.

We must not forget that while equipment can help us achieve excellence in communicating our vision, simply having expensive equipment doesn’t mean we will be excellent.

It used to be that one studied and practiced to master one’s craft. There is a process of learning and application that cannot be circumvented. It may be shortened or altered by technology, but it cannot be avoided if one is achieve excellence. In order to master something to the point of excellence, we must go through what I call “The Steps of Awareness”, and it’s truly a lifelong, dynamic process. The learning curve never stops for the one who is committed to achieving excellence.

So, what can you do about it? The good news is that it’s not rocket science.

First, be critically honest about your work. Learn by studying the excellent work of others and choose to strive for excellence in your own work. Don’t be afraid to fail – but be willing to learn from your failure. Pursue what you love and practice, practice, practice intensely. Seek expert feedback on your work (that can be a hard one). Become a crusader for excellence. Stand up and don’t be afraid to say “it ain’t good enough, it can be better”. Say it to yourself. Say it to others, especially your clients. Say it loud and often.

Craft and Vision offer great resources that can help you pursue excellence in your photography and storytelling.

A good friend (and one of my favorite photographers), David duChemin, has published a wonderful series of ebooks under the title Craft and Vision. They’re fresh, with lot’s of info, exercises, and knowledge and they’re super affordable. If you haven’t already, I’d highly recommend adding these to your own resource library.

I think you’ll find it incredibly exciting to discover that you’re capable of getting far better at your craft than you ever imagined.


Leave a comment

June Wallpaper and India workshop update

Udaipur is known as “The Venice of the East” and will be just one of a handful Indian cities we will be exploring on the workshop in November.

As I have been planning for the Photo workshop in India I have been thinking back to some of the great cities that we will be exploring. One city I have enjoyed in the past is Udaipur, which is called “The Venice of the East”. Now I don’t think it quite measures up to Venice in the sense of waterways and ambiance, but it is still an amazing city, which is why I chose to have the June wallpaper be of this great Indian city. To download the wallpaper, click here.

I also wanted to give you a quick update on the Photo workshop to India. The workshop is going to be from November 1-9, 2012. That means we will have nine days together of shooting and the total length of the trip will be 11-13 including travel time to and from New Delhi, depending on where you are coming from.

We are still working on nailing down the final price but we will get that to you as soon as possible. Here is an itinerary of the trip so far:

Day One: Old Delhi
During our first full day we will take some time to get to know each other, discuss the itinerary, philosophy and details of the workshop as well as venturing out to begin exploring Old Delhi.

Day Two: Old Delhi and Nizamuddin Dargah
We will spend the morning of our second day continuing our exploration of Old Delhi. After lunch at Kareem’s, a famous lunch spot in Old Delhi, we will head to Nizamuddin where we will spend the afternoon and evening wandering through this neighborhood and shrine.

Day Three: Jodhpur
Our journey to Jodhpur, “The Blue City” will begin with a quick flight from Delhi. We will spend the rest of the exploring this wonderful city filled with blue houses, great markets, forts and more.

Day Four: Desert Safari
Leaving early in the morning, we will spend the day on a desert safari, exploring the desert landscapes around Jodhpur and enjoying local Rajasthani food and hospitality.

Day Five: Jodhpur to Udaipur
We will leave Jodhpur early in the morning to make the full day’s drive to Udaipur. Along the way we will stop to explore the beautiful Ranakpur Jain Temple, admire the incredible beauty of the Aravalli mountain range and the wonderful countryside of rural Rajasthan. In the evening we will explore the city of Udaipur at night.

Day Six: Rural Udaipur
Leaving early in the morning, we will venture south of Udaipur where we will spend the day exploring the picturesque landscapes of Rural Udaipur and village life.

Day Seven: Udaipur
Known as “The Venice of the East”, Udaipur is home to many waterways, ghats, palaces, temples, markets and more. As we wander through this wonderful city we will enjoy an early morning boat ride and a tram ride to the top of a hillside fort at sunset affording us wonderful panoramic views of Udaipur.

Day Eight and Nine: Jaipur, The Pink City
We will end our adventure together wandering through the wonderful markets, mosques and more of Jaipur which is known as “The Pink City”.

You are not going to want to miss this trip so mark off the dates on your calendar!


1 Comment

One belated BlackRapid DR-1 strap giveaway coming up….right now!

The DR-1 Double Strap is a killer two-camera strap I use constantly!

On May 26th I reviewed the DR-1 Double Strap, a killer camera strapped I used on my recent trip to Ethiopia. As part of my review, my friends and sponsor, BlackRapid, agreed to give away one of these straps to one random (and lucky!) winner.

I was supposed to announce the winner on Friday but I totally spaced it! I have been traveling a lot and sometimes when I am on the road I seem to lose track of space and time, which was what happened to me last week.

Anyway, a winner has been chosen at random and the winner is (drum roll please)…..Tim Cowley! I am confident Tim will love this strap as much as I do if not more!

I want to say thanks again to my friends at BlackRapid for not only making amazing photography gear but also being willing to be bless my readers with free gear every once in a while!


Leave a comment

Upcoming Photo workshop to India

India is a country of unmatched diversity, spiritually, geographically, culturally, linguistically and more which makes a favorite for photographers around the world. Of all the places I have visited India is definitely one of my favorites, which is why I am excited to announce this photography workshop in partnership with The Flat Planet Travel.

Sufi Muslims at Nizamuddin Dargah in New Delhi

On this photography workshop we will start out in New Delhi wandering through the neighborhoods, markets, mosques, shrines and temples of Old Delhi, Nizamuddin, Mehrauli and more. Next we will head to Jodhpur, The Blue City, where we will explore this wonderfully colorful city and the surrounding desert landscapes that are home to wonderful and beautiful people and cultures.

One of the stops on this Photography workshop will be Jodhpur, The Blue City.

From Jodhpur we will drive to Udaipur along a route that will take us through the incredible Aravalli mountain range, past the magnificent Ranakpur Temple, a beautifully and intricately carved Jain temple, as well as wild monkeys, Rajasthani camel herders, painted elephants and more; it is truly an amazing drive.

Udaipur is known as the “Venice of the East”

Once in Udaipur we will take our time as we explore the beautiful waterways, ghats, palaces and more. Additionally, we venture outside the city to the south to experience rural Rajasthani desert life. We will have the privilege of eating with locals, creating images of the beautiful rocky landscapes of Rajasthan and more. Finally we will make our way back to New Delhi, stopping for two days in Jaipur, The Pink City before we make our way home.

This workshop will be an unforgettable adventure and is designed for photographers who want to enhance their visual storytelling skills in a relaxed yet focused mentoring environment.

The exact dates and price will be announced soon so be looking for these details. Until then stop buying Starbucks, have a garage sale and do whatever else you need to do to find the money to join us because you will not want to miss this adventure of a lifetime!


Leave a comment

What makes someone a “photographer?”

These are two pictures of my son taken by my wife who loves taking pictures with her Iphone but doesn’t consider herself a photographer because she doesn’t use “big” cameras like I do.

The last few days I have had various conversations with people who love to create images of food, their kids and other subjects that are important to them. What has struck me about all of these conversations is that each time, at some point in the conversation, everyone has said to me something like “I love taking pictures, but I am not a photographer”.

This got me thinking about what makes someone a photographer. In my opinion if someone loves creating images and living a visual life, then they are a photographer. Now they may not make money from their images, have the best equipment or even be that great of a photographer but who cares! If they love exploring the world visually and creating images of things they love than I say they are a photographer!

The reality is that no matter where any of us are in photographic journeys, we all need to be learning more about craft and sharpening our vision and style. I have been a photographer for over 15 years and I feel like I am constantly learning more about my craft and how to create images and stories that not only move me but also resonate with others.

So as David Duchemin has mentioned in past rants let’s forget the labels of “Professional or “Amateur” and just focus on growing as photographers who do it because we love it.