This year one of my New Year’s Resolutions is to be more bold with my photography. To me this means taking better photographs but also being a little more daring with my work. 2016 was an exciting year and I had the opportunity to photograph all kinds of cool events. Check out some of the photographic highlights in their high resolution glory on the JAC Media Flickr!
Rory Mercury from G.A.T.E (J-Pop Summit 2016, Cosplayer Unknown)
Photography is an art that is accessible on a basic level to everyone with a camera. The widespread proliferation of quality digital imaging devices has seemingly blurred the line between professional and hobbyist. So how do you take better photos? Reading this post is a good first step; having the motivation to improve counts for a lot towards actually improving anything.
Here are three key components to taking (amazing) photos:
1. Technical skills. Learn about everything that your chosen camera platform can do and what it can’t. Every rig has different strengths, and an intimate familiarity with the equipment you are using will help you get the most out of it. Understanding how to set your camera settings appropriately for the lighting and circumstances is the goal. Another aspect of technical skills is utilizing photography and film theory when composing and taking pictures. These are established ways of thinking (or tools) to help you consciously make better images. There are tons of physical and digital resources dedicated to analyzing and creating photos, so use them! You don’t know what you don’t know (until you start researching). The more you know about cameras, images, and theory the closer you are to becoming an expert on the subject.
2. Awareness. Paying attention to your surroundings is not only a good way to improve your photography but it is a great life skill to practice as well. When you are taking photos think about what’s around you and what’s in front of the camera. Having an idea about what the photo you want to take looks like will help you figure out where to stand and shoot from. When you are going to take a photo ask yourself, ‘Where should I be standing to get the perspective I want?’ You should cultivate your ability to figure out where to stand and point your camera for the best results. This is really hard to do if you are spacing out and ignoring your surroundings; look at what people are doing around you and plan accordingly. Try moving yourself around a subject to adjust the composition of the photo and find that perfect angle. Be decisive and flexible so you can maximize your chances of getting the shot you want.
3. Opportunity.Networking and people skills are a huge part of being a professional photographer, and pragmatically it is a big part of being a professional anything. Pursuing opportunities to take interesting photos will help you become a better photographer. When you go places take your camera with you and look for opportunities to take interesting pictures. Additionally, when you’re photographing at events, talk is cheap so talk to everyone and hand out some business cards while you’re at it. People would rather work with a photographer that they like over a random stranger with a camera. As a bonus, who knows where these new relationships will lead? Having friends and knowing people affords you opportunities others might not have or be aware of. If you are looking for a place to start with all of this: Practice good hygiene, dress for the occasion, and read the room. Being clean and well dressed goes a long way towards positive first impressions. It can be tough initially as an introvert to reach out and create these opportunities but every time you do the next time gets a little easier. I highly recommend reading How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, or at least the Wikipedia article about it for an excellent resource on how to network and develop your people skills.
Vocabulary Word of the Moment:
Perspicacity (Noun): the quality of having a ready insight into things; shrewdness.
[I love that there is a word for this quality. Possessing perspicacity definitely helps in recognizing potential photo opportunities!]
This week I was invited by Keiretsu Forum member Jean L. Batman to attend and photograph Angel Capital EXPO at Microsoft. Below is a gallery of the pictures I took from the event. If you like any of the photos enough to use them for marketing purposes, I encourage you to use them! They are all available for download from Flickr at high resolution. Just be sure to credit me as the photographer and let me know where I can see them being displayed.
There’s a new video up on the JAC Media Productions YouTube channel! Check it out here:
I wanted to create a video that focused on the feeling of shooting tin cans and practicing marksmanship. It was a quick project (shot and edited in a day) about taking what is a relatively mundane activity and visualizing it in an exciting way. Too often I find that my smaller ideas for videos never make it online for a variety of reasons; so completing a short video like this one and an accompanying blog post feels good to get done. Also, I recently got into animated Gif making with Photoshop which is exciting and time consuming. The featured image is my first attempt at a Gif; the dog was being cute that day so I took a couple pictures that ended up working as a short animation with some fine tuning.
In other news, I’ve been working on establishing a visual identity for JAC Media Productions. A large part of that identity is the logo, which I sketched a couple designs of before coming up with this one:
The inspiration for the logo is historical Japanese brush painter’s seals. Like the kind that got stamped onto artwork and documents to authenticate them. It’s supposed to be a reflection of my brand’s close relationship to art. Japan and South Korea are so hot right now (culturally, stylistically, aesthetically) their media has influenced my work in a significant way. I think the new logo reflects an international sensibility with its East Asian styling and hand drawn appearance.
I got into cars as a hobby during my 4th year of college. I got my license when I turned 18 and passed the driving test, first try, without any real world driving experience (I played a ton of racing video games, which was good enough I guess). At the time this meant that I could borrow my parent’s cars for errands when it was convenient for them. It wasn’t until I started living out of hotels and struggling to manage my commute time to campus and home that I bought my first car.
The car was a boon to my overall college experience and I gained an immediate appreciation for it as an essential asset. Perhaps the scarcest resource we have is the number of hours in a single day. Owning a car meant avoiding the time inefficiency of depending on public transportation, which translated directly into additional usable time. For me Jenny represented most of my savings and the inception for my interest in cars and motor sports.
Officer Jenny (named after the policewoman in Pokémon: Indigo League) is a 2006 Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor. There is a cult following for these cars, and for good reason. If you’ve never owned one it can be a little hard to understand why at first glance. It’s a full-size American sedan made by Ford with decidedly late 90s styling.
So What? So it’s got the Ford Modular 4.6L V8 from the Mustang GT of similar era making 250hp and 300lb/ft of torque, true duel exhaust, stiff suspension for capable handling and excellent ride quality, aggressive ECU tuning for later shifts through its 4 speed + overdrive automatic transmission, and a ride height conducive to hopping curbs. The interior is spacious and comfortable even with 5 adults inside, and the trunk is cavernous in its capacity. And the cars are bulletproof. Figuratively in most cases but some of them actually have ballistic door panels made of Kevlar that are literally bulletproof. The police drive these cars up to a certain mileage then auction them off to the public where they are often times purchased by cab companies and driven hundreds of thousands of miles without issues.
Fast and reliable, they must be expensive right? Not really. Cheap to buy, fix, and work on; it features a body on frame design with widely available parts from a variety of similar models. Additionally they get okay gas mileage at 18mpg City and up to 27mpg Highway (they’re fairly heavy at about ~4,000lbs). They really are fun cars, and for the money you could do a whole lot worse.
Today was a day of many firsts for me as I attended Porsche Destination Drives. The highlights are: that I got to drive a Porsche, I drove a series of autocross events, and I played follow the leader with an expert driver in a few cars each worth over $100,000 on a serious raceway. Actually I got to drive almost all of Porsche’s latest cars at least once during the day’s various automotive events. All courtesy of Porsche (thank you!).
Living in Marin I see almost as many German automobiles as I do economical hybrid vehicles designed by Toyota. There is a certain allure to the rounded edges of a BMW or Audi that seem to project a quiet sense of wealth and social status that only a vehicle hailing from a European lineage can provide. Personally I’m not enamored with European cars the way that many in Marin and San Francisco are. I did daily drive a 2011 BMW 328i for a couple of years and it was pleasant enough, if a little common around Mill Valley. During what Porsche calls the ‘lifestyle drive’ portion of the day’s events I had the opportunity to test drive the 2016 Macan GTS through a selection of Sonoma’s scenic streets. Granted like most trips to Sonoma there was ample traffic to sit in, which I think is an accurate simulation of what a daily drive in any car around Marin is like. That being said, the Macan‘s leather stitched interior combined with its adjustable air suspension make it a comfortable SUV for navigating even the slowest and most bumpy of streets. The autocross event I drove it in showcased that it had a sporty side as well with pleasing handling characteristics for the size of the vehicle.
The Porsche GT3RS (picture in white above) screams ‘luxurious street legal race car’ as it sits there on its ultra wide tires holding up that massive spoiler.
When I was younger I used to get car sick riding in the backseat of my parent’s cars when we took trips to visit Stinson Beach. As they carved the winding mountain roads between our house and the beautiful California coast it felt like my stomach did its best to free itself from my body through my mouth. Stepping out of the Porsche 911 Carrera 4S after driving a few laps on Sonoma Raceway really put the friendly cliff-side roads to Stinson Beach in perspective. This car would be great for nauseating your passenger with hard cornering during a spirited drive through the canyons. Porsche is clearly aware of this notion as they included complimentary barf bags in the back and side pockets of many of the cars. A few of the people in our group dropped out of the event after taking a lap around the raceway in the 911s, visibly nauseated by the forces of rapid acceleration and deceleration produced by the cars. Personally I was feeling pretty good during the whole thing. I found the car’s incredible performance during the driving events quite thrilling.
It’s worth mentioning about the cars high performance, based on what I experienced today, that the speeds required to break traction in a 2016 Porsche 911 Carrera are well above all reasonable limits on public roads. There’s not really a way to drive the car at its limit anywhere other than on a racetrack. The twin turbo 6 cylinder engine screams behind the drivers head to push the car from 0 to 60MPH in a velocious 4 seconds. The drama of its exhaust note popping and crackling during rapid downshifts reminds me of why I love cars, and especially sports cars. It also has seemingly herculean levels of grip around corners. All of that performance plus it’s easy to drive; even at the limit it felt very composed. If you ever get the opportunity to go racing (in any type of car) at Sonoma Raceway, I definitely recommend it. They have a great track with large elevation changes and some fairly high-speed areas. I had a good time and Porsche’s cars are starting to grow on me.
As a side note: If Porsche or any other car company wants to let me drive their cars, I would be more than happy to check them out! And share the experience.
Phoenix, Arizona during the summer is the hottest place I’ve ever been. Temperatures were regularly 110* and peaked at 120* F while I was there. Everyone had dark tinted windows on their cars, a feature I’m strongly considering for the next road trip. Despite the heat, I had a great time at Phoenix Comic con.
Coming from the slow moving suburbs of California it seemed like Phoenix is a city of impatience by contrast. The highways of Phoenix appeared to reflect the people, which all have higher speed limits than their California counterparts. It’s fun to drive a bit faster than normal. Maybe the temperament comes from the weather in that no one wants to wait around when it’s over 110* outside.
There were many great panels at Phoenix comic con. A few of my favorite were the Kpop one and the Fakku one. I got the opportunity to chat with Jacob Grady, the founder of Fakku, later during the convention at his booth. Lots of fun hanging out with those guys. They make skateboards now, which feature appropriately sexy designs well suited for decoration or skating (I want one).
I managed to get some pictures of the convention while I was there with my 50mm but it was a sub optimal choice for the incredibly crowded convention floor. With an aps-c sensor it ends up being too much zoom for impromptu photos of cosplayers as there is rarely enough elbow room in the crowds for proper framing. All the photos featured are straight from the camera with no post production (Canon Rebel T5i).
I went to Kraken Con this year for the first time and it was a lot of fun. There were many talented cosplayers in attendance and a good number of vendors tables selling all kinds of anime merchandise. I managed to get a couple of pictures while I was there which I’ve included down below.
If you have not seen DC Comic’s latest contribution to the superhero film genre, fair warning: spoilers ahead.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Zack Snyder, 2016) is a monster movie with super heroes in it. It’s dark and serious and the critics hated that it wasn’t Guardians of the Galaxy (James Gunn, 2014) or The Avengers (Joss Whedon, 2012) level funny. The whole film leads up to an inevitable city smashing melee between characters with astounding power. And the spectacle of everything unfolding is Fucking Great. Batman gets power armor. Superman has all of the super powers to choose from when he smashes the bad guys. Wonder Woman comes out of the woodwork to put the hurt on a mutant-alien beast with abilities and equipment befitting her name. So I can forgive Zack Snyder’s decision to omit attempts at witty one liners and smiling actors in place of honest to goodness character development and gritty action. As a spectacle of modern cinema this film is really worth watching. Also see Godzilla (Gareth Edwards, 2014) and Pacific Rim (Guillermo del Toro, 2013), for more giant monster fueled destruction.
Ben Affleck is the Batman that we needed. Jeremy Irons is perfectly paired with the role of Batman’s friend and butler Alfred. The casting in the film is as good as anyone could have made it. The contrast in character between Batman who is ruthless and calculating compared to Superman who is all powerful and somewhat naive, accentuates the distinct personalities of both characters. By having them both in the same film, the individual characters are in this case more engaging than they would be without each other as foils.
It’s frustrating as a fan of superhero movies and monster movies to read about the world that these two characters inhabit being portrayed as ‘too dark.’ The existence of super heroes only make sense in a universe that has serious problems. Bruce Wayne’s (Batman) parents were murdered before his very eyes on the streets of Gotham. Superman’s planet was destroyed and Metropolis is at risk of being leveled by space monsters and megalomaniacs regularly. There has to be a motivation for action, however trivial. So good for Warner-Brothers for keeping The Dark Knight dark and showing off some of the steel of The Man of Steel. Not every super hero film needs to be funny and light. Long live variety in this saturated genre.