FotoWeek DC 2009 Awards Competition

This seems like a good contest. There is a $20 fee for each entry, but the licensing and categories are good.

Remember, there is 100% chance of loosing... if you don't enter

FotoWeek DC is pleased to announce the second annual FotoWeek DC Awards has expanded from a regional competition to an international call for entries of remarkable imagery, both in single and series form, as well as multimedia pieces that combine the strength of still images with video, sound and graphics. So much profound work has been created by photographers from around the globe we felt we needed to include this work in our Awards and at our Festival.
We invite you to submit your best work!
* Open to all professionals, amateurs, and students around the world!!

§ * $21,500 in cash awards

  • * Distinguished panel of international judges
  • * National Geographic Society Awards Ceremony Nov 5, 2009
  • * Work displayed at FotoWeek DC Festival Nov 7-14, 2009
  • * Published in Limited Edition 2010 FotoWeek DC Book
  • * Media & Online exposure at
  • * Entries judged in 12 separate categories (including social documentary and
  • multimedia)
  • * Images accepted in digital, film, cell phone, and alternatives processes
Enter by July 26th for 20% discount. The final Awards deadline is September 13, 2009. Visit for a complete listing of award categories, eligibility, rules, judges and information on FotoWeek DC 2009.
FotoWeek DC relies on your generous support to fund our non-profit programs and events.
Good luck with the Competition!
FotoWeek DC

When someone you photograph dies

Carlos Gonzalez was a man that I met once and for about 30 minutes. He was the only one to respond to a failed personal project called "Tree Hugger." It was to be a series of portraits of people and their relationships to trees (quotes and individual stories). I put an ad in a few places including craigslist and although a ton of people responded, only Carlos showed. I never considered the shoot a total loss because of him. We had a wonderful conversation about Guerrilla Gardening. Check out this blog and see for yourself.

Well I was just informed yesterday that he passed away. It made me very sad and as I was bringing up the images to provide to his partner of 27 years, I couldn't help but wonder how many things he did to help beautify the world around us. I was always meaning to contact him to do a photo story about him, but kept blowing it off. Now it is too late. I am glad I met him for that short amount of time though and will always appreciate that, but will wonder what kind of project we could have done together to make more of a difference.

"Never let yourself regret a missed opportunity" - Chip Maury
May he rest in peace.

Peacock Bass

My son, Corbin and I caught this Peacock Bass from the pond in the backyard. It didn't take long. In fact all I did was put a bit of bread on a hook, dropped the line in for a second and pulled this 12 inch (OK maybe 6) guy right out.
He was pretty cool looking and although he was very active when we caught him,
once he got in the tank and the lights started going off, he calmed
down a bit. We photographed for maybe 20 minutes and then put him right back. Once we put him in the pond he sure left in a hurry. It was pretty exciting to do this as this was the first time using a fish tank to hold a wild animal. It seems to have opened a brand new world for me and the Backyard Project. I am using a 10 gallon tank (I think) with a tank filter that is meant for a 30 gallon tank so the water is kept crystal clear. I made sure to keep the water temperature to about the same as the pond so not to put him in shock. Also it was important to make sure the glass was clean and I stay at a same angle to the glass so there is little distortion from the glass. I also ended up using a black board as a Gobo (GOes Before Optics) so there was less reflection from the glass. I moved my lights a lot which is pretty common with me as I try to get as much variety in light from a shoot.

Fish Photos (A new project)

So I have this family of Peacock bass living on the edge of the pond
outside my back porch. A perfect addition to the backyard project. But
I never shot something like this before so I figured before getting
these wild creatures in a tank and not doing things right and maybe
even killing the guys, I figured I would practice. Not that these fish
are dispensable, but they certainly are used to a tank.
My first goal was to have a tank. Second was to have clean water. I
hooked up a filter that is meant for something twice the size as this
tank. I let it run a few days so the water was crystal clear. Finally
I 'obtained' three variety of fish to photograph. Using my Elinchrom
kit and a white vinyl backdrop I placed the tank (sans filter) on the
kitchen counter. Making sure the glass was spotless, I was able to see
the fish floating in what seemed like air. It was pretty cool to see.
I then just went to it. Positioning the light either overhead or to
the side. Using a second light for the white seamless or just putting
a black foam core behind to get the black backdrop instead.

On of the challenges ended up being that the fish sank to the bottom.
Because they were already stressed they sat on the bottom trying to
figure things out. The gold fish seemed less affected, only raising
his top fins every time the flash went off.
One cool side affect of the other chiclids (Jack Dempsey and an Albino
Oscar) sitting on the bottom was that it made it easy to focus. I had
to make sure I was parallel to the glass most of the time in order to
avoid distortion. Also, some of them sat really close to the glass
which made it easy to use my 60mm micro to get super close. I removed
a few spots here and there from the water, but other than that these
shots are as taken.

Now, when I get the Peacock bass in the wild (unclean) water I will
have a challenge of him flopping all over the place and also the water
getting really dirty really fast. We will just have to see what happens.

Regardless, I think I started myself on a new project of shooting fish
tank pets. It should be fun and will give me a ton of ideas to work
with. Now I have to figure out how many friends can donate their fish
or how many times the local fish store will allow me to use their
liberal return policy.

At what point does a student become a family member?

I have to say that in the short life I have lived, I have met and been with many wonderful passionate and creative people. As I grew I started to meet more of which that became students, protegés, mentee, young pattawan learners, whatever you want to call them. These are people that see that I have something to give and teach and come to learn and take. Some of them end up being the takers and leavers, but many of them end up becoming friends for many years. Of these groups of students there is an even smaller percentage that end up becoming something much more than I could ever imagine as a student. These students end up becoming buddies and then close friends and finally so close they could be considered a family member. I would do anything for them and they for me. It is a great feeling to have. 

One of these people I am proud to say is Samuel Rogers. I met him about 5 years ago at one of my Light Nights in Suffolk, Virginia. I would have a weekly light night in my garage for whoever wanted to come and chat about photography. Sam was stationed at a nearby AirForce base and would be there every time. He later started spending more time with us picking our brain and taking every bit of guidance to heart. From basic photo skills to life lessons to business management. I spoke it and he listened. But more importantly, he was there for my life lessons and always there to give back when I needed it.

Sam recently ended his career in the Airforce after 8 years of great service to make his way as a freelance photographer in Virginia. After a ton of mentoring and helping him get on his feet he has quickly gained his confidence and independence. He is soon to be a huge threat to any local guy out there and is going to take the industry by storm. I feel this. There is much future in this one.

He finally got his blog up and it already looks great. I would suggest getting onboard with it now and seeing what this guy has to offer. It is all him and it is great.

Ansarov on Wikipedia

I am now a success. Nothing else matters. If you can end up in Wikipedia then you are a part of something big. Almost as big as having a username FloridaPhotographer on Facebook.


Elderly Woman in her Sunday best

In the process of creating a new portfolio book. This time I am going
to try Graphistudio. They are PRIMARILY a book company marketed to the
wedding market, but dam do they have nice books. And for about $800
bucks I can get a very nice 12 x 16 book with an Awesome cover design,
50 pages AND about 48 4x5 books in the same design for leave behinds.

Anyway, Going through past projects and found this gem. I remember
this as being a "hook up" shot I did for the person that gave us a
great deal on my Dodge Durango. This is her sister who wore her Sunday
best. I did the shoot in 10 minuts and that was that, But because I
NEVER delete anything and archive EVERYTHING, I was able to find this.
Now whether it ends in my portfolio or not is a different story, but
this is a great shot regardless.


Facebook freak. Resistance is futile.

Join me on facebook at 

So while others may have spent their Friday night watching some sports game or at a party with friends, Anna and I sat in front of our monitors watching the clock tick down to zero hour as Facebook unlocked the ability to create a username for our profiles. Some people see this as a no big deal, but to us this is a huge business move.

Up until yesterday, anybody that created a facebook account had the identity of some long set of numbers resembling a facebook social security number. But now people will be able to create a username that helps create a searchable identity. This allows for people to not only say, "Look me up on facebook (where there is 500 results)" but rather got to  Now think about how google is going to be influenced by this?

I don't know the ins and outs of all this stuff, but I think I did just fine by creating a username "FloridaPhotographer" While Anna got "MiamiPhotographer." We will see if the few hours we spent in front of facebook instead of out in town paid off. Only time will tell. 

So what is your username?


Picture Licensing Universal System

So today I had to put together an estimate for licensing of three images for use in a magazine in Europe. I was lucky that the client at least can type descent english, but am I expecting that he is going to understand what I mean when I say he has one-time Non-Exclusive Restricted rights for one time print run on half page in the inside of his magazine and that there is no web usage authorized???

Enter the PLUS Coalition. 

I knew about these guys about 2 years ago and always checked them out from time to time to see if they developed. Even became a member through my wife's company. It has been slow growing, but they are progressing and the meat and potatoes are there. What is very cool about their concept is the fact that I can describe a certain usage that I want to give and it will pop out a code that would coincide with a definition in the client's language that they would understand. It is like math for the licensing world. 2 + 2 = 4 No matter what language you say it in. That is what the PLUS code is about. When it is all said and done, I could use one code to describe one use in all languages. Pretty cool. 

And yes, licensing still does exist. For those who lost faith and simply give their images away because they don't like discussing this matter with a client (I have tons of friends out there doing this) you need to think again.

First off, this really is one of the main things that separates a professional from someone who sees no value in their work. 
Second, there is a residual income here that is important to the survival of a photographer and 
third, this is your work. You have no idea what the value of an image is going to be in 2 or 20 years.

I just relicensed a set of images from my first shoot since being out of the Navy (2 years ago). Great feeling.

NEVER do work for hire! Never do buy out!!! First of all, both terms are vague to a lawyer. Second, everybody perceives it as being that the person that paid you is therefore the photographer and owner of the images. How can you like that?  

In a worse case scenario (I mean worse as in you want the job very bad and the client absolutely will not budge) Then grant them unlimited unrestricted use in perpetuity. Never buy out!

ANYWAY... I digress. Back to the PLUS coalition.

These guys are great. Try them out. It is free to try for now. search around their website and read about what they are doing. I think you have to be a member to download their embedder tool. This allows for you to create a license package and embed the rights into the image. Pretty cool! Also, anybody can take the image, grab the code and go to the website, paste the code into the reader and see exactly what the image rights are. 

I donated to the cause a while ago, I would suggest paying and becoming a member and be involved with the start of a future in universal licensing.


Get out there and shoot

Since I got back from a long trip, I haven't shot much. Stuck in front of the computer either editing or working on a proposal for a HUGE project. It gets boring, but is necessary for business survival. But we can't forget that what we also need to get out there and feed our creative beast in order for it to survive as well. 
Sunday, my friend John, his son, Cameron and I went out to the everglades to go 'mess around.' Like always I brought my gear. Really, how much extra work is it to put a case in the back of a car? And if you call it work then you are reading the wrong blog.

As we were driving, we came across this huge Lubber Grasshopper (romalea guttata) crossing the road. Not quite the same criteria as my backyard project, but who am I to turn away a client. 
This is the first time shooting a critter in a while since being so swamped with work so I was very excited to get down to basics with this guy. He was so beautiful with his elaborate colors and design. 

It felt really good to be out shooting something in nature again. 

Shooting from the window

One day I read from someone about shooting from car windows
so I always think about him when traveling in a foreign country. I
shot this during an average day in Poland. These young boys had just
picked some amazing blooms of lilac flowers and where on the side of the
road. It was the end of a very long day of tons of shooting horses and
we (Anna and I) were both just wanting to go home and take a shower
when I saw this. Granted we didn't come to a complete stop, but I at
least picked up the damn camera and stuck my head out the window. It
is shots like this that, if I had not taken the little bit of effort,
would keep me up at night kicking myself for not getting the shot.
This just happened to Anna in Frankfurt airport. She was so excited to
tell me about how beautiful the light was and how amazing the view
through clean glass as the planes where landing. She felt terrible for
not taking out the camera and shooting. My good friend and mentor,
Chip Maury, told me once, "Never let yourself regret a missed


Look3 Festival of the photograph

Submit up to 3 images and see what happens. What do you loose other
than time. The most valuable thing a person can have. What would you
be doing otherwise.

Changed my mind on Blurb. They can't be trusted

In the past I had made comments about Blurb and their book quality
being spotty, but if it was budget you were concerned about then they
were the ones to go with. But I must say that there is no way I could
ever use these guys again. Not for anything.

One thing I was happy with was that you could put a book up on their
site and offer for client's to order more, advertise to their friends
to order, etc.
But now there are other places that offer this.

Another item to be happy with is their customer service. They are
fairly quick to respond and have very little issues to send you a new
order with little issues.
But if you have to contact them EVERY SINGLE TIME you order a book
because it sucks then it isn't worth it.

I don't order books so I can enjoy emailing the customer service. I
don't dare want for a client to order a book on their own if I know
what the chances are that they get a crappy quality book.

Here is another example. The top is the first set of books. The bottom
is the second run. The cover was so bad it should not have left the
warehouse. I understand the prints where dark already, but the color
balance is drastically different from one book to the other.

Next check is on My Publisher. I already ordered a few books from them
and they have been good in quality. Of course if money is not an
option for the client then ALWAYS go with ASUKA Books.

Here is a comparison to MyPublisher.

A little about flash/shutter sync speed

Not talking about medium format and leaf shutters. In the past a
camera used to sync at 1/60th only. I remember shooting my first
basketball game in high school where there was this huge shadow on all
the player's heads. I couldn't figure it out until my teacher (Annette
Cowart) told me it was the shadow of the shutter on the film plane.
This was when the shutter would move horizontally from left to right
on the film plane. (the heads where cut because I was shooting
vertically). Then the industry moved to a vertical shutter that uses
two shutters moving from top to bottom. This greatly increased the
shutter sync speed with flash from 1/125th to eventually 1/250 which
has been a common standard for a while until recently I find that the
D300 now syncs at 1/320th.

There is one thing that Nikon has (not sure on Canon) that makes you
able to sync at super high speeds. That is by using the SB flash with
a setting at FP (which stands fro Focal Plane) High Speed Sync. The
flash is blasted at a longer duration so to not have a shadow
anywhere. This will decrease the battery life of the flash though so
be aware. Also the biggest problem is that the higher in shutter speed
the more power needed and therefore the range is decreased. I have
been told that at 1/8000th the flash would need to be less than 4 feet

I was recently called out by a blog reader named "Stef."

She (assuming she) made mention of my past statements on some of my
Elinchrom lights and the flash sync speeds. She made mention that it
isn't up to the flash head to determine sync but the camera body. She
is right... sorta... for small format SLR cameras with focal plane
However, if you have a leaf shutter (like in many medium format
cameras) then you are dealing with a very different situation. The
super fast sync speed Elinchrom and other manufacturers are talking
about is for use with those medium (and large) format leaf shutter
situations. This is something I was used to when using my hasselblad,
but since I don't typically use it, I need to change my thoughts on
One idea though.
If I am still shooting a fast moving subject, have a camera on tripod
(slow shutter speed of 1/60), little ambient light (dark room) and a
flash that blasts light at a certain speed (say 1/4310s), then am I
still capturing the subject at that flash duration??? at 1/4310 of a
second? or at 1/60th?

I am going to shoot a bunch of tests on this and show more about this,
but one thing is very certain; As the years progress, we are seeing
that we can shoot in very subdued light (with little to no noise) and
even into the sun (and syncing the lights)which is opening our
palette. We now seem to be limited only by our imagination. No matter
how much B.S. or misinformation (accidental. I swear) we give, it
really all comes down to one thing. It is all about the results!

attached image, f/22 1/160s ISO 100