Category Archives: Lessons Learned

Reflections on life, life’s lessons, parenting and just being a 40-something in Dayton, Ohio

Fundamentals

I’m frequently asked for advice and recommendations on purchasing digital cameras. I’ve learned to answer such questions with lots of questions of my own before offering suggestions or direction, questions such as what type of photography do you plan to do, are you going to make large prints with your images, will you eventually expand your digital camera system, etc. Of course the most obvious question is what’s your budget. From there I can provide some general guidelines and resource suggestions.

I’ve also learned to say right up front that I am most familiar with the camera make and models that I’ve been using since about 1980 or so – Canon, and more specifically the Canon EOS line of digital SLRs, lenses and accessories.

I definitely DO NOT get caught-up in the argument, so often overheard amongst local camera clubs, that one particular make of camera is better than the other, and that by simply having a certain camera and lens will make one a good photographer. It doesn’t. In fact I’ve observed that maintaing such a mindset often propels aspiring photographers in the other direction.

Increasingly I’ve noticed that it’s the “gear heads” who almost always end-up striving to imitate another photographer’s work versus exploring their own, original creative approach and exploration of subject representative of unique artistic vision.

It’s a little bit like sports. If the aspiring photographer is lacking in the fundamentals – i.e. original, artistic vision, basics of composition, knowledge of subject, approach, awareness of light, techniques for creative exposure – no amount of money spent on gear will be enough to overcome this vital shortcoming. This is why I stress the fundamentals so much in all of my workshops, no matter what the skill level of my workshop attendees or complexity of overall workshop subject.

With that said, the following article written by Bob Atkins and posted on Photo.net, is a good primer before rushing out to the local Best Buy or ordering online that digital SLR that you’ve had your eye on:http://photo.net/equipment/choosing-a-dslr-camera/

The article is good is because it doesn’t bog the reader down in overly technical descriptions while touching on nearly all of the points of consideration that should go into making a smart purchase of a digital camera system, considerations that are more numerous than was the case with traditional film cameras.

I am also working on my next “Photographic Moment” tutorial video where I will demonstrate the difference between a digital SLR that has a full-frame sensor and one with a smaller, APS-H size sensor. This topic was recently recommended by one of my YouTube channel subscribers.

But once again, FUNDAMENTALS, FUNDAMENTALS, FUNDAMENTALS.

The camera doesn’t walk out into the woods and capture the image. It’s the creative eye, unique interpretation of light and life and the artistic approach of the photographer that make the difference between the ordinary snapshot and the extraordinary photograph. Everything else – all of the tools of the trade – serve the artistic master. Not vice versa.

Does losing weight make for a better photographer ?

Yup, it sure does. I do quite a few photo shoots where I need to get down for smaller subjects and different angles. I’m also hauling a bit of gear over my shoulders or on my back. Just yesterday I did an editorial assignment of holiday decorations at a home in Washington Township. Lots of little details that required flexibility. I don’t like for anything to get in the way of me “getting the shot,” especially when it’s something that I can easily control. There’s no excuse.

I’ve been an overweight photographer and I can safely conclude that it is MUCH easier capturing details, carrying gear and working with creative angles when I’m not carrying 50+ lbs of extra weight. I’ve also found that it also helps with doing portrait work. The subject reacts to the person taking his or her picture. Think about it.

Weight Watchers is the way to do it. It’s not a diet, and that’s why it works so well for so many people. It’s a fundamental shift in how one lives his or her life.

This has been one of my proudest achievements during 2009.

Photographer Jim Crotty Before and After

New Logo Design

Aibrean’s Studio Blog: New Logo Design for Jim Crotty.

April Sadowski is a very talented graphic artist here in the Dayton area. She was a pleasure to work with – professional, thorough and very quick turnaround.

In crafting a new logo identity for my photography business I wanted a design that moved away from the “Ohio” moniker and was more representative of my professional identity as a photographer and visual artist. In my years of being in business for myself, as well as many previous years working in corporate marketing and communications, I’ve learned where my own capabilities stop and where those of an accomplished professional begin. The art of graphic design and logo identity is one area where it’s not smart to attempt on your own. Turn it over to a pro and you will get pro results.

Chase Jarvis Best Camera is Best iPhone App

Chase Jarvis Blog: The Best Camera: iPhone App + Book + Community.

Being an iPhone user I am always on the lookout for useful apps, particularly those that are connected in some way to photography. Given the fact that my iPhone 3G (I still haven’t seen the need to upgrade to a 3Gs) comes with a minimalist approach toward a built-in camera phone – just 2 megapixels – there have more and more app developers who’ve learned to push that little camera beyond its original, technical limitations.

I learned about Chase Jarvis’ Best Camera app in the most recent issue of PDN Magazine. The Best Camera is by far the best camera app yet for the iPhone. It seamlessly integrates the camera function with some impressive in-camera, image editing effects as well online photo sharing and social community interaction.

The premise of the app is quite simple and one which I repeat quite often at my photography workshops and in photography articles. It’s not the gear that makes the photographer. It’s the person behind the camera and a keen observation of light and subject.

I must admit that nature, landscape and studio photography is a bit more methodical and requires more in the way of gear and technical knowledge, especially at the pro level, but for “street photography” Jarvis does an impressive job in showing what can be accomplished with just a simple, two- megapixel camera phone. Sure Jarvis makes a crack about “dynamic range,” but basically his approach toward image-making is the foundation from which all successful photographers – whether they be accomplished pro shooters or avid amateurs – create bodies of work that make viewers stop, look, imagine and think.

A Visual Celebration of the End of Summer

While most people celebrate the end of summer with back to school and Labor Day activities, I prefer to take notice of the turning of the season, a turning toward what I like to call the “good light.” Softening sunlight and lengthening shadows and fields that turn to gold. This is the nature photographer’s best season when capturing images of the Ohio landscape. It’s also the primary reason I’ve scheduled my first, full-day photography workshop for the weekend of September 26th.

The End of Summer on the Ohio Landscape by Jim Crotty
The End of Summer on the Ohio Landscape by Jim Crotty

It is also with some melancholy that I say farewell to the summer of 2009. Back in May I made a goal of making this past summer one full of positive experiences from the limited time I have available to spend with my daughters, Emma, age 10, and Chloe, age nine. Making this my goal was in response of regretting not doing such during the summer of 2008. You see I am a single, divorced dad of two very special little girls. During the school year they live with their mother in Texas. Emma and Chloe are my everything, and I’ve made it no secret that there is NOTHING for me in Ohio that comes close to being worth the pain I go through when I have to say goodbye and put them on that American Airlines flight back to Texas.

I mean it – NOTHING, especially Dayton. I don’t think I need to explain that point further for most regular readers of this blog.

I succeeded in accomplishing my goal for this past summer, so much so that the pain of the goodbye (at least for me) was as sharp and searing as it has ever been.

And it’s with that emotion of love and commitment to my children that I present the following video and images, most of which were taken during my daughter’s last week with me in mid-August and going through the lonely days following to the beginning of September.

The visual artist creates what is discovered in the light from that which is felt within.

Outdoor Photographer August 2009 Issue Best Yet

Over the years I think I’ve subscribed to nearly all of major photography magazines. You name it, I’ve read it. Many photography publications are directed strictly toward the average hobbyist market, relying heavily on advertising from the big retailers that sell just about any type of photo gear you can imagine.

There are other photography magazines directed strictly toward the professional photographer. These are the publications with impressive portfolios and practical information on everything from studio lighting to optimal digital workflow.

There’s one photography magazine that has been able to consistently offer editorial content that is suited for both advanced hobbyist and professional shooter, particularly those who enjoy nature and landscape photography. Outdoor Photographer is that magazine, and this month’s issue is the best yet. It is timely that the August 2009 issue came to my attention now because it will serve as an excellent reference resource for my upcoming, full-day photography workshops on nature and landscape photography, the first of which is scheduled for September 26, 2009 at Cox Arboretum here in Dayton (it filled-up quite some time ago, but I will be doing another one this winter).

The articles that I found to be most interesting were “Get 4×5 Quality with a DSLR,” by Dennis Frates; “Get Into the Stock Market,” by Art Wolfe (thanks Art for introducing me to PhotoShelter back at the NANPA Summit in Albuquerque); “The Zone System Revisited,” by Ken Rockwell; “Making Your Best Black-And-White,” by Richard Lopinto; and “The Big Trip,” by Mark Edward Harris.

This why Outdoor Photographer is one of those magazines that I actually take the time to read from cover to back. It always deliver, especially if you are a photographer who is constantly seeking new information and ways to improve your craft, and who isn’t ? The constant learning process is what makes photography so much fun, whether you’re just starting out or an established professional.

The following images aren’t directly related to this blog entry other than they were taken by a “photographer” (me) and “outdoors.” Plus I thought it would be fun just to post them and provide a little variety. The landscape images were captured on the evening of July 16, 2006 from Dead Horse Point near Moab, Utah, overlooking Canyonlands National Park. Something kind of cool happened to me when I was out there photographing the scenes and the sunset that evening. Can’t quite explain it, but I think it comes through with the images.

The skyline shot is of Cincinnati during the 2006 Tall Stacks Festival.

Sunset from Dead Horse Point Utah by Jim Crotty

Colorado River from Dead Horse Point by Jim Crotty

Canyonlands National Park from Dead Horse Point by Jim Crotty

Tall Stacks Cincinnati 2006 by Jim Crotty