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Photo a Day Challenge: Day 3

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 3 - Reflections on Ilford Delta 100 FilmStorm Drain Reflections 1 - Irvine, CA
Thursday, August 15, 2013 at 8:03am
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During this photo a day challenge, I was working on refining my daily schedule to be more efficient. Modeling it after Ben Franklin's structured daily schedule and inspired by his saying "Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise," part of this adjustment involved limiting my sleep to 7.5 hours instead of 8 and waking at 6:30 every day. I thought this would be a difficult adjustment but it turns out I feel more refreshed with 7.5 hours of sleep than I do 8. That little adjustment added 182 waking hours to my life every single year. Thank you, Ben Franklin.

On one of these early mornings, I decided to head out for my daily photo. For this photo a day challenge, I'd gotten in the habit of riding my bike around town with my camera gear in a simple school backpack. And right outside my apartment is a trail here in Irvine called the Mountain to Sea Trail. It's really more like hills to sea because there are no mountains here. But basically it's a series of paved biking/walking trails that connect the hills in the north to the ocean in the south. You can literally ride your bike 22 miles from the inland hills all the way to the Pacific Ocean, weaving through neighborhoods, shopping centers, under freeway overpasses, and over train tracks. I've done a large section of it before and it's a great workout with some beautiful scenery.

The portion of trail near my home runs along a concrete drainage channel that leads all the way to the sea. This ditch isn't a natural landmark in any way shape or form, but nature has found a way to make it livable. The sediment from storm runoff has built up in some stretches of the ditch. This provided a base for plants to grow. The plants provided a home for animals. And the sediment has built up to such an extent that in certain areas of the canal there are full-blown ponds. And in these ponds are fish and turtles. Big turtles. There are even cat tails growing from the ditch now. It's really quite picturesque.

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 3 - Reflections on Ilford Delta 100 FilmStorm Drain Reflections 2 - Irvine, CA
Thursday, August 15, 2013 at 8:22am
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In the words of Dr. Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park, "Nature - uh, uh - finds a way." And I'm glad it did here. This area of the ditch has become my tiny little slice of wild lands in the suburban jungle of OC. It's almost like there is a little sliver of nature running through Orange County that survives despite all the development. I love riding along this trail, visiting the turtles, watching the birds, and admiring nature's ability to create its own ecosystem virtually anywhere.

And this little patch of nature helped me create 2 of my favorite photos from this whole challenge. The reeds and cat tails reflecting in the still waters at dawn offered a great opportunity for some black and white photos. The contrast was just phenomenal at this time of day. The plants were still in shadow from the low rising sun, but the sky was fully illuminated. This resulted in some nice separation between the two subjects in the reflection. I attempted to catch the turtle in one of these photos as he neared the surface, but he wasn't cooperating. Oh well. I'm sure he had breakfast to attend to.

The image at top was exposed for 1/60 of a second at f/5.6. The second image featured here was exposed at 1/125 of a second at f/5.6. No filters on either image.

Read the backstory on this Photo A Day Challenge here. See previous days here.

Hummingbirds

Well, I got some new pictures of hummingbirds for you guys.

...that's right, hummingbirds.

I had a private student this morning in Laguna Beach and during the lesson, he snapped some amazing pictures of hummingbirds while I stood by to lend my expertise. There were tons of them! It was the first sunny day we've had in awhile here in So Cal and I think they were out in droves gorging themselves after fasting through the days of rain.

I had some time to kill after the lesson before my next student's appointment, so I thought I'd try my hand at photographing some hummingbirds myself. I haven't done wildlife in awhile and I definitely don't consider myself a wildlife photographer, but his shots got me all jazzed up to break out the telephoto. One of the perks of being a photography teacher: inspiration from my students.

Best I can tell from some online research, the hummingbirds I had in my sights were Allen's Hummingbirds (selasphorus sasin). The coloring on the males is absolutely stunning. The iridescent copper coloring on their throats glowed like a beacon in the daylight. It would even shift to a rich, red color depending on how the light hit is. Beautiful contrast with the green on their backs and white on their chests.

I thought this above shot was kind of funny with him looking right at me, but it also shows his color the best.

Compare the coloring of the male above to the female below.

Hummingbirds are tough to photograph because they move so quickly. The good thing about them, though, is that they are pretty fearless. I guess knowing you're the fastest gun in the west can make you pretty confident. This fearlessness means I could get pretty damn close to them with my 200mm lens without scaring them off. The auto focus on my 5D (mark I) is pathetic, so I ended up manually focusing for most of the shots. Worked much better than I thought it would...

So there you have it! Thanks for stopping by!

More Ranting About Microstock

So I'm in line to checkout at Barnes and Noble yesterday when a stack of books catches my eye. The title of the book is "Best Easy Day Hikes Orange County" and features a photo of a hiking trail on the cover. There's something weird about the picture. I know where that trail is, I know I've been on that trail, I know I've taken a picture of that trail... hey, wait a minute... that IS MY PICTURE. But something about it is off... the sky isn't how I remembered it, but I am almost certain this in my picture. So, I take a shot of it with my iPhone so I can compare it my file at home.

Sure enough, it's definitely my picture. They just decided to switch out the sky for something else and lighten up the whole thing. If you're thinking "well, maybe someone else took a very similar shot under a different sky." No. The perspective, the arrangement of leaves, the debris on the trail - everything is identical to my shot. Here, check it out:

And here's a closer look of the book cover:

So, there's no doubting this in my picture. But am I happy about my picture donning the cover of this widely-published and widely-available book? Sort of, but mostly no. Sure, it's good to add to the resume, if you will, and it's nice to say my picture is on the cover, but I don't remember getting paid for this!

Then I remembered my sad, early days with microstock (check out my†earlier†post entitled "My Thoughts on Microstock" to learn more about microstock and how I feel about it). I used to have my entire catalog of images with Shutterstock and iStockphoto - 2 microstock agencies that are raping photographers on a daily basis. Unfortunately I was uneducated on the market of stock photography and made the unfortunate decision to do business with these corporations.†

Nevertheless, I did†do business with these companies and I did sell some images through them. So with that in mind, I checked the book for a photo credit... it was on the back cover: (C) Shutterstock!†

That's right! Not "(C) Nick Carver"! It was "(C) Shutterstock"! I didn't even get a photo credit for this! And you want to know how much money I got for this wide use of my image on a book cover? 20 bucks! That won't even cover a tank of gas!

So that's why I'm not happy about this. I got 20 measly dollars for this major publication and I didn't even get a photo credit. And the worst part is, it's totally legal because I was dumb enough to put my images on a royalty free microstock agency. So I'm not mad at the book or the agencies, I'm mad at myself for being ignorant in my early days as a professional. If I'd researched stock photography better and if I'd really thought about fair use rights, I never would have sold this image for unlimited use†for 20 greenbacks. I'd rather not sell it at all than get 20 bucks for unlimited licensing rights.

Shame on me.

DISCLAIMER: I have strong opinions on this and I am blunt, I know that. If you are offended by any of this, I apologize, but I'm just being honest. I'm not greedy or self-righteous, I just feel artists should get fair pay for their hard work. And, again, it was MY mistake to join up with these agencies.