New Website & Branding

I'm very excited to announce that my new site is live. Full redesigned to be simple and showcase my photographic work. I did have some help though. A big shout out to Bryan Moreno who worked on the identity and logo. Chase Farnum also helped me find the necessary tools to make this site which is built on Wordpress look wonderful! As you are already here I won't say much more. Enjoy!

Cheers,

Stephen


30 Day Challenge - Half Way Point

30 Day Challenge Half Way
See All 30 Day Challenge Images on Instagram

So I've made it beyond the halfway point of my 30 day challenge but have not been shooting every single day. I was out everyday for the first 10 days but did not walk away with keeper images from each day. If undertaking a similar challenge yourself do not let this be discouraging. There is always value in getting out and going through the process of capturing images and practicing the craft. Also, whenever life always takes precedence over taking images so when opportunities to be with friends and family arise take them. I rode my bike a bunch in the past three weeks and was able to take some decent photos along the way with my phone. Even when using an iPhone go through the same photographic process of working a shot and great images can still be made.

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6 Things I've Learned About Flickr

Flickr ConesIn the past two months I've put a lot more effort into shooting more regularly and sharing those images. I started by revitalizing my Flickr which is where the largest collection of my images lives. In these two months I have grown my following from about 100 followers to over 13 thousand using the technique in the first item below. With the increased exposure one of my more recent photos has made the explore page getting even more exposure. A popular challenge on flickr is the 365 project which inspired me to do a shorter 30 day challenge. So here are some of the important take aways I've learned from these past few months.

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Tread Carefully with Lightroom to Flickr Exporting

LightroomI have been getting a big response to my photos on Flickr recently and with my 30 Day Challenge underway I've noticed a flaw in how Flickr/Lightroom don't play to well together. My workflow is typically edit an image in Lightroom and publish it to Flickr via my photostream in Lightroom then post to instagram and then add titles, tags and description on flickr and publish to the public there.  So the issue I have ran into is that if Lightroom thinks any change has been made to a photo that is already on Flickr and public it will republish it and my settings are to publish as private to Flickr so I can then add titles and descriptions as I wish.  So when a photo gets republished and made private all the favorites on that photo are lost.  Losing those will prevent images that may have been on their way to making the explore page ineligible and in some cases I have had this happen even when I haven't made any modifications to a photo. Super frustrating.

The quick solve to this problem is setting the privacy of the photos on publish to be public. I personally don't feel comfortable doing that as I upload multiple versions/crops to Flickr for Instagram. Also the title and description can be set in the metadata of the file in Lightroom but sometimes that will change based on the audience. If that information is then changed on flickr that might pull Flickr and Lightroom out of sync and cause an unnecessary re-upload. The sure-fire way of avoiding this is to just export photos to disk and then upload those to Flickr separately. Then edit titles, descriptions, etc. on Flickr and per your audience based on the network your uploading it to (Flickr, 500px, Instagram, Facebook, etc.). So that is how I am going to proceed to prevent this from happening in the future. I though initially it was a hickup because one of my files didn't save but that same file republished again when trying to publish just one new photo again even after no changes on the Lightroom side of the fence.


30 Day Challenge Begins

30 Day Challenge Day 1With the warm weather upon us... Wait. No, it's still absolutely freezing in NYC. Anyway with more daylight at least in the evenings I have decided to begin 30 days of shooting daily. I am doing this not to take away images but to get into the mindset of going out and shooting more frequently and to practice the craft both technically and creatively. Working scene by scene one shot at a time paying attention to composition and light.

Each day I am going to post an image from the prior day regardless of whether or not I would share it normally. This will make me focus more on working shots to get better results. My fear is that on some days I won't take the time to produce a good image which defeats the whole purpose of this exercise. The primary focus for a challenge like this is for personal growth not to come away with stunning images every day. So a huge part of this process is the reflection and review of images and self critiquing what could make images stronger.


Vermont Stars

flickr-stars-squareI took my first stab at shooting stars while spending a weekend in Vermont to do some snowboarding. We arrived in a town just outside of Killington on a crisp and very cold night. Ideal conditions and a clear sky for some star shots. For my first attempt I would have preferred it be a little warmer then the -12 degrees fahrenheit. Besides that there are a few things I learned from the experience.

When an opportunity to try a new photographic experience presents itself take it! In my case where I live in NYC it is impossible to get clear shots of the stars because of all of the light pollution. So even though it was in the negatives the crystal clear sky could not be passed up.

The second takeaway is that at night the viewfinder isn't going to do anything.  To compose a shot will require taking shots and recomposing based on what is seen on the screen. I cranked up my ISO when taking these shots to reduce the shutter speed for the test shots so I could quickly recompose and get on with the shoot.

Third, bring a flashlight/headlamp and a shutter release. The buttons on your camera will be very hard to see and they were very difficult to press in the cold. Also for time savings you can cut two seconds if using self-timer to prevent camera shake. That 2 seconds can seem very long in the cold. One more camera related thing in the cold is that battery performance will be robbed significantly so bring spares.

I wasn't expecting to come away with any images my first time out but I was delightfully wrong in that assumption.  Just get out there and see how it goes!


Pingdom Free Monitoring

This is just a super quick note that you can add a very basic level of monitoring for you website through a free pingdom account. This basically can track two things.  Server response whether your server is running and returning content and Real User Monitoring (RUM) which will alert you if page load times start to slow down.

As posted before, I am on a Digital Ocean Ubuntu Linux stack which is an unmanaged hosting solution. So this is a simple gut check to make sure my site is up and running. Pingdom will shoot an email off if my site is down so I can now sooner rather than later that the box needs kicking (a power cycle usually does it). Before I would only get a notification again via email from Google Analytics saying that my site was inaccessible but this would be a full day after my site has been down. Pingdom will do checks at a rate of one's choosing and by default runs checks every five minutes.


New Year, Fresh Start

Videos & Blogs

I have many things I would like to accomplish and am hitting the ground running. The main thing is content production which covers a vast array of things.  I would like to be blogging, vlogging and photographing regularly.  Blog posts once or twice a week and a video once a week with photos coming through all of the time. The videos are by far the most difficult and time consuming but I am getting quicker with more experience and practice. As I am becoming more familiar with the editing software I am putting more thought into my edits. A lot of this means thinking out my shoots ahead of time so I have the footage I need for continuity and diversity in to combine.

As far as  the videos I've made so far they are a bit longer coming in at 5-6 minutes but I would like to condense each video to be more easily consumable from start to finish at around 3 mins in length.  I would also like to do less speaking in my videos and let the visuals, music and editing tell my stories. Future videos will consist of vlogs, more formal projects such as photography tutorials, mini-documentaries and music videos. I am particularly interested in creating some videos for music producers as I really enjoy discover new music for my videos. If any music producers are interested let me know!

Photography

I have a few things for photography I have in mind to do in upcoming months. First off is to make some education videos to cover some of the basics of photography to get people started with more advanced shooting on their DSLRs. There are many other quick tips experiments I wish try out as well photography wise. I plan on doing at least a 30 day challenge in warmer months due to more available light. So the premise of that is I will shoot everyday for 30 days. I have yet to decide if there will be a recurring theme for the duration or if each day will be something different. I plan to accompany my progress with videos as well. Another idea that comes to mind is a challenge to shoot fully manually without reviewing photos as I shoot.

Health & Activity

I also plan of living a more active life in 2015. Too much time is spent behind computer screens and sitting at desks day and night.  On top of that, I am being much more conscientious of what I am eating. I kicked off the new year with a bout of food poisoning which was not a very good start but also made me reflect a bit on what I am eating. I plan on eating far less meat and moving towards many more fruits and vegetables. Fruits of which, were completely absent from my diet before. Also, I am not a coffee drinker but like all developers I need to get my caffeine fix from somewhere and turn to soda. I plan to completely cut soda out of my life which I have done in the past (lasted about a month).  Replacing soda with water and having no caffeine in my diet I am hoping will also lead to a better sleep pattern.

With the weather being all over the place and conditions being far less than desirable for cycling in changing what I eat is the first change I wish to make. What we consume directly impacts our quality of energy and overall emotional state. It's not about how one feels while eating but how one feels after the food is produced into energy. With better fuel for more energy I need to start actually burning through exercise. With a better sleep pattern there is no better way to start a day then with some exercise to get the endorphins going!

Overall, I think 2015 has a lot of new, exciting and fun times to be had. Life is what one makes of it so make it count!


This Weeks Vlog - Manhattan Skyline Shoot

Alright so this weeks vlog has arrived and it is some video to accompany the Waterfront Shoot I have previously written about. Enjoy!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2bu98vwyw_g


Weekly Vlogs

In an effort to make sure I explore the city more often I have set a goal to video blog (vlog) weekly about places I go to photograph and anything similarly related. I also haven't done any heavy video editing in my past so this a new and fun challenge for me.  So to start off the vlog I had the opportunity to explore the TWA Flight Center and the Brooklyn Army Terminal.  I was able to go to the places for free due an annual event called Open House New York. This is a great event which offers public access in addition to guided tours with some of the architects for great buildings.  For the full list of buildings, locations and programs that were available this year check out there website which has about 150 different programs listed.

My cousin Eric came with me to photograph these two awesome spots. If you want to see more vlogs please subscribe to my channel. So here it is my first take at vlogging.  If anyone has music they would like me to feature in future videos please email me at: stephen@stephentvedt.com

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tqVhhMU--lc