Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Goodbye to 2011, Hello to 2012 - A Personal Journey

This post will be a little more personal than we've been in the past.  Turning a passion into a business in 2011 and seeing it begin to take flight has been a very exciting, but painfully humbling experience. 

Market research led to a website that has seen more visitors than expected and sales have been higher than budgeted.  The Facebook page has begun to take off, and a blog was created to keep up with changing content, the sharing of ideas, and to establish market presence.  The blog was not in the original plans but came about of necessity. 

All of these things have been read about, researched, and planned out.  What I hadn't planned on, was you - the avid reader, the viral Facebook reach, and the response to the photographs that have been displayed.  For that I am appreciative and humbled.  It means only one thing - 2012 has to be a home run...not just over the fence, but out of the park!

Passion, the ability to overcome, and vision - those are the three pillars that this journey was started with, and they are the three pillars that we will continue to grow around.  So what type of a journey are we going to see in 2012?  Let's see if we can peek into the looking glass...

Passion for Learning:
A 52 week photography project will be spread out over 2012.  We hope you will not only follow along, but participate in our project by showcasing your own photographs on the blog. Our plan is to go through the alphabet in order, twice, throughout 2012.  Each week a letter will be represented, by something in the photograph or a concept portrayed.  For example, the letter 'A' could be a food photo of an apple, perhaps the letter 'A' displayed on a famous landmark, or perhaps it may show an angry face or the use of aperture.  These photographs are not about possible revenue for Dakota Visions Photography, but are about the passion for learning, for making oneself a better photographer, and for pushing the boundaries that we are comfortable with.

Overcome the Web:
Currently, Dakota Visions Photography, LLC is limited to the wire or the wireless signal.  It's time to break the tether and become tangible.  This means in both print format for sale in a gallery and within the cover of a printed magazine.  And we want to share this journey of business adventure with you.  There are others that have shared their story, and we hope to share ours to help you as well.

Vision of 2012:
We don't want to lose track of the vision.  The vision is to create works of art that stir the emotions and portray the passion felt at that moment in time.  Continual self-improvement of technique, an increased base of content delivery to spread the art, and a continued focused vision fueled by the passion to succeed are what we see in 2012. 

It is a risk to share one's goals with others.  Accountability, public scrutiny, and the possibility of public failure are all possibilities.  But, we choose to the see the positive in 2012.   

We want to take this time to wish you a Happy New Year and all the best in 2012.  We hope you share our passion and join in the conversation next year.  You are what keeps us motivated!

So this is it.  It's time to kiss 2011 goodbye and say hello to 2012!  It's time to See You Behind the Lens...

Monday, December 19, 2011

10 Christmas Photography Tips and Tricks

With Christmas just a few days away, we wanted to give some tips, tricks, and ideas for better holiday photography.  No matter whether you are using an iPhone or an expensive full-frame DSLR, there is something here for you. 

For some reason, a few days after we get back from the holidays we wonder why we don't 'Oohhh' and 'Aaahhh' over our Christmas pictures?!  Let's see if we can't change that this year.  We'll do this countdown like David Letterman, Top Ten style...

10. Use Reflections
At this time of year especially, there are lots of shimmering surfaces available.  Use these to capture reflections all around you from faces to scenes to palettes of color.  Remember, you have shiny Christmas ornaments to capture children around the tree and silver serving trays to capture those hungry ones at the table.  From there, it's only a matter of scouting around for even more reflective image possibilities.  Be reflective...

9.   Try a Silhouette
Come on now, that's not a new cocktail...  Taking dramatic, stunning silhouettes couldn't be easier this time of year with all the additional lighting around the home and outside.  Get your subject between the camera and the light (back lit), disable the camera's flash, set your meter off the brightly lit background - and VOILA!  You have a beautiful silhouette picture, just like the pros.  My suggestion is late Christmas Eve night - that last look at the lit tree, when the lights in the room are out, with the kids in their PJ's.  Find the silhouettes...

8.   Be the Present
When you are shooting the typical Christmas morning gift opening brouhaha, don't force everyone to hold up a gift and smile.  This produces just another one of those Christmas pictures that we throw on the cutting room floor.  Get to the level of the gift opener (yes, that means on the floor for the children) and catch their natural reactions - tearing or neatly opening the wrapping, the 'reveal' shot when the gift is first opened, or the 'not-so-funny-to-the-gift-giver' discard of the unwanted Christmas sweater over the shoulder.  Get genuine...

7.   Think Outside the Box
There are so many possibilities for Christmas memories, but why do we always get stuck on the pictures of opening presents?  What about the night before, when the kids place the cookies and milk out for Santa with a note?  Or when your children make that homemade gift or card for Grandma? (PS - great addition to the gift too!)  Or that sneak peek out of the bedroom door after being told to go to bed - to see if Santa is here yet?  Think outside the gift wrap...

6.  It Isn't Lame, Fill the Frame
Yes, I know - I'm getting boring with technique talk, but this simple little technique will add so much emotion and flavor to your pictures.  We all sit on the couch and take those pictures across the room...put on the zoom lens!  Or better yet, GET OFF THE COUCH!  Fill your frame with the subject, it will have a stunning effect on your photos.  Get close for the most...

5.   Have Yourself a Balanced White Christmas
One more technical tidbit, then it's on to the top 4 fun tips!  Check to see if your camera has 'white balance' settings.  Either choose indoor or tungsten lighting settings to ensure your indoor photographs are white balanced and avoid that deadly indoor yellow or green glow.  But, if you are shooting in RAW format with your camera, don't worry if you forget this one - shoot away and set your white balance during post-processing.  White like the snow...

4.   Turn the Lighting Down
The story of Christmas is told about a small, shiny star that takes on an extraordinary responsibility - to shine bright and tell the world.  If you have time to compose a few shots this Christmas season, add a batch of low-light candlelight images to your collection.  A child's face lit by candlelight as they sit still and wonder at the glow.  Or capture that look of anticipation on a face lit up by the Christmas tree lights before they go to bed.  The possibilities are endless - use your imagination, or better yet - let it run wild! The warm fire's glow...

3.   Go MACRO
Whether you have a macro lens or a camera with a 'closeup' or 'macro' setting, try photographing the smaller items around for a set of fun photos.  Ornaments glittering on the tree, the almost empty wineglass on a messy table with the decorations in the blurred background, colorful decorations on the table, the nativity scene under the tree, or stage yourself a picture with the Gingerbread Man getting into the sauce.  Don't forget the small stuff...

2.   Capture the Preparation
I know, if we have the camera, usually we are the ones doing the preparation too!  The gift opening and the meal are generally our photographic focus for the holidays, but there are so many other opportunities to capture during the preparation.
  • Food preparation - Grandma's arm stuck in the turkey
  • Putting up decorations - Uncle Joe's plumber heritage showing
  • Tantrums - They are going to happen, might as well have fun with them
  • Opening the bottle - Remember that time when Aunt May sprayed the kitchen with pinot
  • Wrapping gifts - Capturing the spirit of little Berta 'giving' instead of 'getting'
Imagine the possibilities...

1.  PREPARE Ye the Way!!!
He's making a list and checking it twice...You should too!  The holidays seem to get so rushed, take the time to fill out a list.  Getting yourself ready is the best tip of all.  A little preparation will go a long way in making this holiday excursion less stressful and so much better.
  • Pack the camera - oh, don't tell me you've never done that before
  • Batteries charged - extra ones on hand (did you pack the recharger?!)
  • Extra memory cards - @#$$%($%^!*&
  • Consider the light - do you need to bring your flash? diffuser?
  • Photographer's eye - take some time and look online for ideas
  • Test shots - take a few shots in spots that may have difficult lighting beforehand, so you can get it right when the actual moment arrives
  • Tripod - for those night time and low-light Christmas tree shots
  • Picture list - have a great idea, but don't want to forget it, write it down
  • Non-people shots - get them out of the way during 'nap time' when you can focus on getting the 'photography' right
But most importantly, don't forget - it's Christmas.  Remember the reason for the season and enjoy yourself.  Don't sweat the small stuff...there's always next year!

Can't wait to see some of your photography after this holiday season - just post them below!

To you and to yours, may you have a Holiday Season filled with peace, joy, and happiness!  From our family here at Dakota Visions Photography, LLC...Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  We will see you behind the lens...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

December, 2011: Artist of Interest

Bear Rock Woodwork Studio

Sometimes you see things that may be out of your own personal artistic realm, but appreciate the beauty, hard work and artistry of it. As we continue to grow the Dakota Visions Photography conversation online, we want share those South Dakota "homegrown" artists.

Jerry Green, of Bear Rock Woodwork Studio (link to their Facebook page), is the 2011 Artist of Interest for December.  His wood creations are truly pieces of art.  

From the Bear Rock Facebook page...  "After retiring, Jerry devoted his time to become as much a master of using a lathe with wood, as he was already a master with a lathe and steel. In recent years, he has discovered and continues to explore the mystery and attraction of the vessel form. While continuing to use wood as his medium, he studies the work of both ancient and contemporary clay artists for inspiration. However, unlike the potter who builds up a vessel with clay, Jerry reverses the process, revealing the art within a piece of wood by peeling away the layers a bit at a time.

His work has been seen in “American Craft” magazine, Western Heritage Center, Prairie Edge, Blue Dog, Dakota Nature and Art, and Arroyo galleries and is in many private collections around the country. Jerry’s work continues to evolve as he explores new techniques. But no matter what direction his work takes him, he strives to always bring a love of form and wonderment to his work."

Take some time and view some of Jerry's work online or in one of the fine Black Hills galleries that support his work.  Personally, I enjoy his wood basket series - absolutely amazing.  Not only is Jerry a fantastic artist, but he and his family are well worth getting to know.  I feel privileged to call them friends.

Congratulations, Jerry! 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Top 5 iPhone Photography Apps

For the first post to the blog, I wanted to share a topic that most people - regardless of their photography skill level - could get engaged with.  So as I am sitting here listening to Adele on iTunes, let's talk about Dakota Vision Photography's Top 5 iPhone Photography Apps.

1.  Photogene2 - $0.99  Photo Editing
After opening a picture from your camera roll or directly from the application, just tap on the wrench and let the fun begin!
Photogene2 Top 5 iPhone Photography Apps by Dakota Visions Photography LLCPhotogene2 Top 5 iPhone Photography Apps by Dakota Visions Photography LLC

The user interface is quite easy to learn.  The feature list is quite impressive.  You have high-end features like histograms, IPTC, luminance & chroma denoise, curves, cloning and dodge & burn tools.  Add to this basic white balance & color tools, standard filters, text options and borders - you have one Powerful editing tool at your fingertips.

2.  360 Panorama - $0.99  360 Degree Panoramic
Have you wanted to show off your new kitchen remodel, but just couldn't figure out how to do it without sending 50 pictures?  Here is your software.  This software has a useful gyroscope feature which allows the capture of more accurate panoramas.  The program takes a little longer than standard stitching apps, but the overall quality is extremely good.

360 Panorama Top 5 iPhone Photography Apps by Dakota Visions Photography LLC360 Panorama Top 5 iPhone Photography Apps by Dakota Visions Photography LLC

When you load the app you are presented with a 360 view grid with in image in it from your camera.  You turn in a 360 degree circle pausing as the camera catches up to create your panorama.  You can view your image as a live image, save it to your camera roll as a regular image, email it, or upload it.  Some uploads allow for the 360 view as well - especially for those that want an interactive photo.  This is a simple app that works well in well-light areas.

3.  Pro HDR - $1.99  High Dynamic Range (HDR)

This app is not just like the one included in your 'Camera' app which takes one photo and enhances it.  This actually allows you control over your high dynamic range photography including exposures and in-app capture.  It is not meant for taking pictures of the buzzer beating shot - it's meant for something that holds its place for 2 seconds or more while the photos are being captured.  Image alignment and HDR merging is in-app and quite powerful allowing for up to 8mb photos.  For those beautiful sunsets without blown-out highlights and extremely dark shadows - this is the app for you!

ProHDR Top 5 iPhone Photography Apps by Dakota Visions Photography LLCProHDR Top 5 iPhone Photography Apps by Dakota Visions Photography LLC

4.  ColorSplash - $0.99  B&W with Color Editing

ColorSplash lets you quickly and easily give photos a dramatic look by converting them to black and white, while keeping your chosen details in color. This effect draws the viewers' attention to the colored areas, creating striking images.

ColorSplash Top 5 iPhone Photography Apps by Dakota Visions Photography LLCColorSplash Top 5 iPhone Photography Apps by Dakota Visions Photography LLC

Thanks to its intuitive and responsive user interface, ColorSplash is super easy and fun to use. You simply use your finger as a brush to remove or bring back the original color from regions of your image. Using a two finger pinching gesture you can quickly zoom in and out in order to work on fine details or larger areas. Works well with reflections, singling out people in a crowd, sunrise/set, and many other types of photographs.

5.  TPE - $8.99  The Photographer's Ephemeris

Yes, for you experienced photographers - there is even an app for you!  Remember, it's all about the light.  An ephemeris is a table of numbers giving the position of astronomical objects in the sky over time. The Photographer’s Ephemeris gives the raw data, but goes on to display it visually, overlaid on Google Maps, allowing the user to see the angle of the sun and moon for any time and date and any location on earth.  It is a map-centric sun and moon calculator: see how the light will fall on the land.
TPE's map-based approach means you are not limited to a predefined list of locations, which often don't include the places many photographers go. Instead, search for any place name on the planet or position the map pin exactly where you want it.

While originally conceived for landscape and urban architecture shooters, all outdoor photographers can use TPE to plan the best locations and times for a given shot.

The Photographers Ephemeris Top 5 iPhone Photography Apps by Dakota Visions Photography LLCThe Photographers Ephemeris Top 5 iPhone Photography Apps by Dakota Visions Photography LLC

Well, that's our list - comment or add any suggestions to the list that you have on your iPhone. You don't have to have an expensive DSLR to enjoy photography! See you behind the lens...

The 'See you behind the lens...' blog is officially open!

Welcome to the official blog of Dakota Visions Photography, LLC.  We hope that you find something here that encourages you to learn more, explore new horizons, or develop skills on topics that are of interest to you.  We encourage you to 'Like' us on Facebook and visit our website to enjoy the whole conversation.  Stay tuned...our first article of interest will be posted soon.