NYC Village Halloween Parade

The Greenwich Village Halloween Parade is a pretty big deal here in NYC. Last year, due to Super Storm Sandy, the parade had to be canceled which caused a lot of hardships for the parade organizers. The parade is a totally community/volunteer effort and has become an important part of the life of NYC, inspiring the imagination and creativity of citizens and visitors alike. The organizers were able to resurrect this year’s parade with a lot of hard work and contributions, finical and otherwise, by many people. You can read more about the Parade, it’s origins and artistic aims here.

NYC Village Halloween Parade #vhp2013This is my photographic take on the parade. A few notes about my shooting process and why I choose to go the Black and White …

www.davidmarkerickson.com/halloween

First, I was testing out a new shooting technique that I picked up from Steve Simon, who also know as the Passionate Photographer, at his seminar during the PhotoPlus Expo here in NY. The technique uses the autofocus and continuous shooting modes on my DLSR camera. Rather than using the shutter release button to focus, I use the AF button on the back of the camera to either lock the focus on a still subject or track a moving subject. The shutter release is then programed only to fire when the camera is fully in focus. It takes some getting used to, but it is a very efficient way to shoot in a complex environment.

Also, the parade takes place at night and I decided that I would go super simple and just focus on composition using natural light and a single lens. When I am shooting a parade or festival, I almost always shoot with two camera bodies, one each with a wide and a zoom lens (17-55mm and 70-200mm). For Halloween I went with one body, one lens and no flash (Nikon D700 + 50mm f1.8). It was very liberating!

I find that the more gear I have the more my attention is on my gear and not on my subject or what’s happening around me. That night I saw a lot of photographers frantically running around with loads and load of equipment; it made me glad I was not one of them! Now, I know some of those photographers will produce some amazing images because they had all that equipment. And, someday, I’d love to experiment with some of those techniques. However, not having that equipment at this moment I made the conscious choice to go the other way and keep it simple.

About the lighting, the NYPD sets up gigantic spot lights on certain streets to augment the ambient light in certain areas. These lights are gorgeous! Nice, clean bright white light that, when you find the sweet spot(s) perfectly lights up the subjects as if you were in a controlled studio situation. Thank you NYPD =)

NYC Village Halloween Parade #vhp2013So, keeping it simple allowed me to stand in the middle of the stream of people and, for that split second, engage with them in a very intimate and personal way. In an environment like Halloween, everyone naturally wants to vamp and play for the camera and to give you their best pose. But I’m not interested in their pose, it’s not the authentic them but an image they are projected. I want to see the person behind the mask, doubly so because they are wearing an actual mask!

After looking through all my photos what I saw was that I had a lot of really close in, intimate photos that were portrait like in nature. They also turned out to be the most interesting and in focus given that I was shooting with the 50mm and the autofocus technique. Everyone and their dog has photos of Halloween costumes and people doing funny things. What I captured that night was something more intimate and personal so I thought Black and White would better convey that closeness.

Black and White tends to reduce or take away information, while color adds more information. I want you, the viewer, to be connected to the subject and not be distracted by the costume or the environment. So, taking away the color strips away elements that would take your attention and reenforces the connection to the subject. So much of Halloween is about color, flamboyance and creativity … but it is also about who we are being and, who we never get to be.

Comprehensive Photo Catalog Review – How To Part 1

As I noted in my previous post, this will be a technical explanation of what I’m up to with my catalog review and how I am doing it so. let’s dive right in …

[Update: as I began to write this I didn’t realize how in depth and how long these post would start to get so this is going to turn into a multi-part series!]

Note: This post is about how and not so much why I am using the tools that I am. There are plenty of discussions in the blogosphere about what software or camera is better than the other.

Note: I am a Nikon user shooting RAW and I use Mac and my main photographic software is Lightroom 5.

My current catalog is over 200,000 images with photos going back 8 years. I am bout 30% of the way through doing a complete review of every image and restructuring how I organize and keep my catalog. I have some standard workflows that I have developed over time and I have had to invent some new ones for this process.

I was an early adopter of Adobe Lightroom and so I’m lucky in that I have a single environment to work in. I am very familiar with LR’s capabilities and drawbacks which allows me to take advantage of the software.

Adobe recommends that you have one single catalog for all of your images. This is something I never liked and over the years I have experimented with a number of different structures. I’ve had the single massive catalog; catalogs by month or by year; catalogs for each individual photo shoot; and even catalogs for projects or unique collections.

After five years what I have finally settled on is one catalog per year and specialty catalogs for collections projects, always with the original source image stored in the catalog from the year that it was taken.

Next, I use file folders and folder names to hold the actual image files themselves from each photo shoot, which gives me another layer of control and management. Technically you don’t need to do this since Lightroom can catalog and display images from any physical source. However, I like to keep things neat and tidy since this helps in case I ever do need to get down into the weeds and deal with individual files themselves – I’ve had a few drive malfunctions in the past where I had do to some serious recovery work and the more things are in order at that level the easier things are to manage!

I think of things in relation to time and so, inside of my year-to-year catalog scheme, it makes the most sense for me to track things from past to future. My folders and file names all reflect this. When I take photos I always make sure my camera time/date is current and when I import images into LR I always sort by capture time.

I will cover more about my file naming convention in a just moment, but here is an example of what of my folders structure looks like for my catalog from 2013:

Lightroom Catalog Folder NameYou can see the Lightroom catalog and previews files are simply named for the year and they sit at the top of the directory. Each photo shoot is then contained in a subfolder with the date in YYYYMMDD format with a very short description.

The date in the folder name order keeps everything easily viewable since I can sort by name when I am looking at file folders. Sometimes I add a specific location note, but it most cases I know where I took the photos and if the folder names references the location then it’s unnecessary.

For file names I have an “internal” and an “external” naming convention. My internal convention is all about archiving and being able to trace files and manage them on a individual basis, both inside as well as outside of the Lightroom environment.

Here is the template I use for my internal file names with explanations below:

DMEP-[YYYYMMDD]-[JobName]-[Sequence#]

DMEP – short for David Mark Erickson Photography. I use this prefix so that no matter where an individual file ends up I always know that it is one of my catalog images.

YYYYMMDD – The year, month and day the image was captured. In the File Name Template Editor in LR this is an option you can select in the “Sequence and Date” area. LR automatically pulls this from EXIF metadata when the file is written in the camera. Be sure to keep your date/time accurately set on your camera! If you travel time zones a lot, make updating your camera time one of the first items on your checklist.

JobName – a short text descriptor that I manually add to the IPTC “Job Identifier” metadata field. This is usually something close to what the folder name is and I often use abbreviated words with no spaces or special characters. Like the date, this data is automatically pulled out by LR and you can find the field code for this in File Name Template Editor under the “Metadata” section.

Sequence# – This is an automatic number generated by LR, again found in the File Name Template Editor under the “Sequence and Date” section. I always use the five number sequence (00001) first to standardize all my catalog file names as well as I never have to think or worry about if I have enough numbers if I add more photos to a shoot.

Here is an example from an actual file:

DMEP-20130720-TrayvonMartinRallyNYC-00230.dng

With this file naming convention I can always look at an individual file name and know if it is an internal or external file, when it was taken and from what shoot. In the Finder app I can also easily sort by file name which makes things easy when looking for a file.

You will notice that I use the DNG format to store my RAW photos. This an open  standard developed by Adobe. You can read more about the DNG format here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Negative). I choose to follow Adobe’s lead on this as it makes things so much easier.

A quick note about “external” file names, which I only used for when I export a file for client delivery. Here is the template:

DavidMarkErickson-[JobName]-[Sequence#]

This is a much simplified template that gives the client the basic info in a simple to read format. A key feature is the JobName and Sequence# are the same from my internal archive to the external delivery. So, no mater where the file itself ends up I can always trace it back to the source file in my archive. Also, this file name template is search engine friendly so I can easily google my name and/or the JobName and see where my images have wound up!

OK – that is going to have to wrap it up for this post. In my next post I will cover more about metadata and creating a workflow to take existing catalog images and creating rolling them over into my new structure.

What to do with +200,000 images?

So, picking up the thread from my last blog post … one of the things I am at work on is reconstituting myself photographically since I have been pretty much out of the game for the last two years. One part of that process I have taken on is to do a comprehensive review of my catalog of photos: no a small task since I have about 200,000 files across various computers and hard drives!

One of the benefits, and drawbacks, to being a digital photographer is that the constraints of film no longer limit the total number of frames one can generate. And, unless you have a good workflow process in place and are disciplined in managing your photos, the average photographer can become easily overwhelmed by the shear volume of pictures generated.

I am currently about 1/3rd of the way through my process and I thought I would share some about what I am discovering for myself with this particular exploration. As I started to think about this post it occurred to me that there are several levels of “stuff” happening so I thought I would split the post up into a couple installments …

First, there is what is happening on the technical level – setting up photographic workflows and making sure my process has the integrity necessary so that what comes out at the end is not more of a mess than when I started I’ll share those notes in the very next post.

Next, there is the work of going back into my past and looking at every single photo I have taken for the past eight years … and what that process is doing to me as a person, and particularly one who has dedicated himself to travel, photography and exploration. The process itself is definitely impacting me and my sense of myself and who I think I am as a photographer.

And lastly, there are some more “philosophic” thoughts about photography itself that have been rolling around in my head for a while now and I think sharing those will help me clarify them for myself and, as well, may spark some interesting discussions.

So the next post will be a technical explanation of  how I manage my photographic catalog and how I use Adobe Lightroom as my main catalog tool along with some explanations of the workflows I’ve setup to manage different aspects of creating and managing the images I create. After that, I’ll post about the more “thoughtful” stuff.

It also occurs to me I should do some writing about my recent travels since,  not only have I moved from one coast to the other, I have traveled across 11 states over the last month!

Up Next …

Comprehensive Photo Catalog Review – How To Part 1

Aaaaand we’re back …

I just looked and it has been 18 months since I last posted anything to this blog. I wonder if it qualifies as a Guinness Book of World Records for inactivity on a blog … probably not. So let’s take a quick look at the last almost two years and catch you up to speed where I am at now and what I am up to.

Looking back on the time period from when I left Budapest in the summer of 2009 and landing back in Seattle in December of 2011 I must admit it was a pretty good run: I traveled through 16 countries (twice to Australia) including passing through Syria and Egypt before the Arab Spring; I completed a 101 days yoga challenge (well, 91 days total in 3 months); photographed rodeo in the Australian outback, riots in streets of Athens, Greece and covered the the US Army/NATO in Kosovo; I scuba dived in the Gulf of Aqaba and guided a safari to see the migration in the Serengeti.

When I got back from my last trip to Athens, Greece in December of 2011 I distinctly remember taking my empty backpack and putting it under the bed and thinking to myself, “I won’t be using this for a while.”

The plan, coming back from Athens, was to catapult myself forward into a nifty little business plan I had been cooking up in during the course of my travels. However, rather than finding myself soaring through the air, I found myself flat on my face and deep in on of the most depressive states I had ever found myself in.

I won’t go into the details about what had me down as it is all a bunch of stuff: old patterns, bad habits, unfulfilled expectations and a mass of disempowering internal conversations that had me feeling powerless and stuck.

I knew that if I were to break the pattern and really take on what it was that I was really inspired by, I would have to take some drastic action. And, having taken a seminar call the Forum a few years earlier, I turned to Landmark (formerly Landmark Education) and enrolled myself into a seve month long leadership training and development program and turned myself inside out. As it happens, I had a little bit more work to do so after the program was over I spent another nine months on Staff with Landmark in the Seattle office.

What I got for myself was that disempowering thoughts I had running in my head were simply old and irrelevant conversations that I had just not cleared out and that were clogging up my capacity and capability; like old programs running in the background of your computer, their functionality long disused and now only serving to slow everything down to a crawl and making even the most mundane tasks seem excruciatingly slow and impossible.

And what that then made available for me was to  get back my sense of myself, for myself. I got that my capabilities are only limited by how I relate to myself and that my capacity to take action and achieve results is a lot, lot higher than I could previously imagine. Oh, and I got one other thing … the girl of my dreams. More about that later, suffice to say we met just at the right time in the process.

So here I am in New York, Brooklyn to be exact, living with my gal and fully taking on that which I started to take on back at the end of 2011, namely to create a travel and photographic business that will have me doing what I love best: travel, photography and exploration.

Stay tuned, there is more to come …

Post Athens

Well, I’m back in cold and wet Seattle now! I flew in from Athens to Portland, Oregon last Friday and went straight for the coast to attend the birthday party of a very dear friend. I have to admit, there is a certain cachet  in dropping into a weekend beach party direct from Athens … it’s kind of fun to cause a little buzz among your friends by being a bit of a globe trotter. Anyway, suffice to say that it has taken me a couple of days to settle down and I am now feeling a bit more stable and able to dig into what’s next.

As most of you know, this was my third trip to Athens for the December 6th anniversary of the death of Alexi Grigoropoulos and Athens had a very different feel this year … on the surface everything seems normal: the streets are decorated for the holidays, people sitting and talking in cafes and traffic is insane. However, to me there was a subdued and slightly apprehensive tone underlying everything, as if on a sunny day there are some dark clouds out on the horizon and you are not quite sure if you are going to have to pack up your picnic and run for it; or not.

In past years, the December 6th anniversary has been a pretty big event with major demonstrations that end in violent clashes with the police. This year, the demonstrations were much smaller and the police purposely stayed well back which gave the more extreme factions few targets to vent their wrath on.

I will cover more of this dynamic and my personal take on the background of what is happening in Greece in the final publication.

And on that note, I am preparing an email blast to go out in a little bit with an update on the project as to where things stand and what the next steps are.  If you are not already subscribed, click here to subscribe to the mailing list …

Sign up for my newsletter!

All the photos, writing and links to other material from Athens will come out in a single “magazine” style package towards the end of next month. Stay tuned here for the link, or join the mailing list and get the info directly!

A protestor hurls a stone at police in front of the parliament building in Athens, Greece on December 6th, 2011.

Update from Athens

Today is the big day in Athens and no one is really sure what is going to happen today. In 2009 and 2010 the demonstrations to commemorate the death of Alexis Grigoropoulos turned very violent very quickly. Everyone I have spoken with is unsure what will go down today. There are two main protests planned for the day, one at 12 PM and one at 6 PM. More than likely the 6 PM demonstration will devolve into violent confrontation.

Earlier this year, the Greek Parliament changed the law of “University Asylum” which barred all police and military from entering any building or campus of any university, without the express permission from the Rectors. This law created a condition where the more violent and extreme protestors could seek safe haven in the various university campuses around central Athens, thus prolonging the engagements with the police. Now that the law has been repealed, the circumstances and tactics of both the protestors and police will have to shift and and no one is really sure what that will mean in terms of the violence and length of any engagement.

I should be careful and not give the impression that the entire city of Athens is teaming with anarchists and nihilist smashing and burning everything insight! Urban Athens hosts over 3 million people, spread out over an area of 412 km2 (159 sq mi) and the vast majority of Athenians are workaday kind of folks. There are many political parties and activits of every stripe and only a fraction of a percentage are extreme in their actions.

That said, there is a general animosity towards the police who are seen as the instrument of a corrupt government and so displays of aggression towards police are largely tolerated among the citizenry … which of course has the effect of creating an “us vs. them” attitude among the police, further fueling the fires.

Since arriving this year there has been a noticeable lack of verve in the Athenians I have encountered. Speaking with my contacts here, they have all noticed similar. My personal pet theory is that the resignation of the former Prime Minister, Georgios Papandreou, has done a lot to depressurize the overall situation. Even though many see the new, interim Prime Minister, Lucas Papademos, as a tool of the European Union and the bankers who are holding all the Greek debt, it seems as if many Greeks are willing to give him a chance, until the next election in February. Papademos has a “no drama” air about him and seems serious about solving the complex problems Greece is facing. Papandreou was very much a lightning rod for all that was perceived as wrong and corrupt about Greek politics, even though as an individual he is a serious and dedicated man.

As well, there is a real fear in Europe now that the Euro and the common market may fail, which would have disastrous global consequences. While several other countries European countries are also experiencing serious debt issues, it is Greece which has been the prime source of crisis and there is now talk that Greece may have to leave the Euro and return to the drachma … a circumstance which no one can foresee the consequences. This fear, of loosing the Euro, I think has also caused a lot of uncertainty among the Greeks and that may take some of the force and violence out of what are normally combative situations.

So, the day is upon us and I will tweet and facebook as I can during the day. Follow along here:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/bror00
Hastags:  #Athens #Greece #Exarcheia

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/david.mark.erickson.photography

See you on the streets!

From LA to Athens

So I landed in Athens, Greece last night after a mad dash from LA to Seattle then on to Portland to catch my flight. Crazy, I know, but it’s the life I seem to be living at the moment. =)

A quick recap on what I am working on here in Athens …

I have started a new endeavor that has been running around in my brain for a while now and I am using Athens as the initial launch pad for my plans. In a nutshell, I want to produce something akin to my own version of Life or National Geographic magazine. However, it’s not just about publishing photos in a magazine style format, but about building community and creating a platform that can causes transformations in the point-of-view among my community.

I plan to primarily use my photography to create a connections between distant people and places and to provide a first hand perspective so the viewers feel as if they are there, in that place with me. I will augment these with writing and audio all using social media tools and techniques to build a platform that caters to both real time and post produced artifacts. I plan to take on 3 to 4 projects a year and then crowdsource the funding to enable me to collect and produce work that best fits the story projects.

As I mentioned, this idea has been rolling around in my head for a while now, but it has taken some time to fully develop into something that I felt I could start taking action on. There is a lot yet to work out and develop, but rather than wait for “someday” I chose to jump in with both feet and start to build momentum and begin to gather my community. And thus, the project in Athens.

I’ll be posting more about Athens here on this blog in the coming days so stay tuned. If you would like to read more about the concept and the ideas behind it, check out the initial launch email I sent to my subscriber base

An Experiment and a Request
http://eepurl.com/hiPxA

And you can check here for some addition background material on my Return to Exarcheia project here in Athens, Greece

 Return to Exarcheia – The Story In Athens
http://eepurl.com/hubLM