2014 NAB Wrap Up

April 15, 2014

Still photographers and motion shooters love to get a “first”  look at “new gear”. Here are a few interesting items I saw last week at the NAB Show (National Association of Broadcasters):

Cameras

  • Black Magic Ursa A 4K camera 2014 NAB Showat an affordable price (around $6,500) that will be shipping in July. They’re calling it the first user upgradable-camera because you can change the sensor and the lens mount. It looks like this will be a great camera for filmmaking and documentaries.
  • Sony A7s Sony’s latest mirrorless camera features a wide-dynamic-range sensor and amazing sensitivity. With this camera, Sony didn’t jump into the megapixel competition against other camera manufacturers, but instead concentrated on image quality at staggering ISO’s. I would use this camera more as a still camera, but it’s small and it also shoots 4Kvideo.
  • GoPro  This company continues to innovate and make products that provide shooters with the tools that allow them to come up with incredibly creative solutions, especially in sports/action content.

Storage/Monitors

  •  Atomos has created the Ninja Star, a tiny ProRes Recorder for theGoPro Hero 3 that has an HDMI-out port and allows you to loop the signal through the Ninja Star and out to a monitor for composition or review. Atomos also debuted their Shogun, a combination seven-inch monitor and recorder with 4K capability.
  • G-Speed Studio by G-Techology This product, a hardware RAID 4-Bay Thunderbolt 2 storage solution, won the “Best Storage of NAB 2014 Award.” The G-SPEED Studio is a storage device with room for four hard drives and is configurable to RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, or 10. You can bring the total storage up to 24TB; at a lesser amount, the sustained 660MB/s transfer rate will get your files going quick.

Sliders/Stabilizers/Helicopters

  • Kessler Unidrive This is a motion control system (slider) that’s automated to enhance your production values.
  • Shape ISEE 1 Camera Stabilizer for GoPro A very cool device to stabilize your action GoPRo footage. The SHAPE ISEE I is a handheld gimbal-based stabilizer for GoPro cameras and smartphones. The powered, self-calibrating ISEE I enables steady shots with the GoPro and features a joystick for up/down tilting of the camera.
  • DJI’s Phantom 2 Vision Plus with Gimbal and GPS The latest addition to DJI’s quadcopter lineup gives you stunning images at a super affordable price ($1,000, or $1,099 for a version with extra battery). The copter has a 1080P camera that supports Adobe DNG RAW, which is great for workflow. There are also features that allow you to stream video to your smartphone in real time and to synchronize your phone with the quadrocopter through WiFi up to 700 meters away.
  • Syrp Genie Time Lapse & Magic Carpet Slider This is a motion controller coupled with a simple slider that provides a relatively low-cost solution for great time-lapse photography.
  • GimbalGunner A new device designed for run-and-gun video shooting. It’s essentially a cross between a two-axis gimbal and shoulder-mounted rig.

Software

  • There were hundreds of booths demoing software, but perhaps the most impressive of the bunch for me was the iZotope RX 3 2014 NAB ShowThis audio postproduction software will take away your fears about working with sound. I saw a demo in which it fixed substantial audio issues with the push of a button. Technology continues to make our lives easier. There is an incredible deal on the software until May 1, with prices slashed from $749 to $249. I don’t advocate capturing bad audio, but you’ll want this repair tool if you do.

Lighting

  • Litepanels This company launched its new Hilio series, versatile panels that emit a raw, narrow beam that provides high-intensity light for long throws.

“A Photograph is the Biography of a Moment”

April 4, 2014

Facebook can be a real time suck for me if I let it, but every once in a while I find out about something that makes a mark on me in some way.  Today, I saw an interesting story posted, about a photographer, Art Shay who was in his nineties.  Art was reflecting upon the photographic legacy he will leave behind, when he dies.

Going through his lifetime of images, it was clear what has been his favorite subject matter – his wife. His wife, Florence, passed away 2 years ago, and as Art picked up a framed photograph of one of his favorite shots of her, he teared up a little and said, “a photograph is the biography of a moment”.

That line hit home and it got me thinking about “the moment” People watching, South Beach, Miami, Floridaand how I have spent a lifetime, capturing them.  That is the power a still photograph has – to capture the moment and preserve it in time.

Think about how your recall your own personal history or the era you grew up in.  How do you remember things?  For me, many of my memories of childhood are drawn from old photographs, when someone who had a camera, snapped a moment in time.  We all remember history through images that have become the icons of their time.

Still photography is a powerful medium.  It captures that one special moment in time and preserves it forever.  It has the power to provoke and to move people to action. It can give you hope or fill you with despair. It can bring a tear to your eye or a smile to your face. “A photograph is the biography of the moment”.

Art Shay has an exhibit of his work: “My Florence: Photographs by Art Shay” at the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College in Chicago till May 24, 2014.

 

 

Seeing Opportunities

April 3, 2014

The interesting thing about getting older is the perspective that one gains in the process.  You realize that all those decisions that you’ve made over the years, ultimately led to pivotal points in your life.  Looking back,

Gail in Window1983

Photograph of me taken in 1983

one either has regrets or is happy with the decisions they’ve made.  It’s usually a mixture of both. Regardless of a decision’s outcome, they all play their part in the life we have.

Some of the decisions I made early on in my “adult life”, charted the course of my future.  Perhaps, one of the biggest was my decision to take a sabbatical from Syracuse University where I was studying architecture.  I was a sophomore and only 19 years old, but I had an insatiable curiosity for the world beyond academia. So, instead of returning to college in September, I took off for Europe.  My plan was to meet up with a friend and travel around Europe and be home by Christmas.  The short story is that when I arrived in Munich and my friend wasn’t there, I made the decision to do what I set out to do – travel around Europe, except now I would be doing it on my own.

The long story is that I eventually met up with my friend a couple months later in Greece and we traveled around together until she went back to the U.S and I stayed.  I ended up traveling (mostly hitch hiking) around the world for a year and when I got home, I knew that I wanted to pursue a lifestyle that centered on travel and exploration.  I decided to become a photographer and use my camera as a means to that end.

I never did return to my studies at Syracuse University.  I headed to California, graduated from Brooks Institute and eventually came back East to make my mark in the editorial world – and I have in a richly rewarding way.  A lot as happened in my life since the day I made that decision to take a “break” from my studies so long ago, and I am grateful for all the opportunities and joy it has brought to my life.

I have just returned from a trip up to Syracuse.  I had been asked to moderate a discussion for an ASMP event, with National Geographic photographer, David Doubilet and Mike Davis, Alexia Chair for Documentary Photography at Newhouse School.  It was a fabulous event and was well attended by students from 9 different colleges in the area – all so eager to learn and make their mark on the world.

After the event was over, I reflected back on my days at SU and the life I’ve had since then. Somehow despite the angst and chaos of the times and the naiveté of youth, I made the “right” decision that changed the course of my life.  Here I was, decades later, at Syracuse University moderating a discussion between a legendary shooter for the “Geographic” and an esteemed editor and educator from the Newhouse School of Journalism. I smiled at how the universe continues to connect the dots in my life  – that is when I tune into it and “see” what it has in store for me.

Connections

March 24, 2014
clem and kennedy

Clem Taylor (background) with Ted Kennedy, early in Clem’s career.

I lost a good friend this week, Clem Taylor. The world lost a “good” man and a great storyteller.  Clem was an award-winning producer for 60 Minutes, no doubt his dream job. Clem loved “the news” and he loved “the story” and had a long and rewarding career in broadcast journalism. Looking around the room yesterday, at an overflowing crowd of people, I saw many icons of the industry. It was like the “who’s who in broadcast news”.   Clem’s stories have touched millions of people over the years. He was a connector of people and a curious lover of life. His life threw a large net.

I’ve known Clem for over 40’s years. There aren’t many people in my life that I’ve known as long as Clem.  Clem was a family friend of Tom’s from Doylestown, PA.  I met him in the early ‘70’s, when was I was living in Santa Barbara, California. Tom’s brother Tim had driven out to the West Coast with Clem and his BC college buddy, Steve Kolbe during spring break one year.  We always stayed in touch with Clem, he made sure of it, and my mind is full of memories of the times that I got to spend with him. He always brought a smile to my face.

In a way, meeting Clem was a huge twist of fate in my life and Tom’s and it led to the “big break” in our careers.  When we moved back to the East Coast after graduating from Brooks, Clem connected us with his father, Adrian Taylor.  Adrian had also just gone “back East” after living in the San Francisco area and working as an art director in advertising.  He had taken a job as art director of Travel & Leisure Magazine in New York City and Clem, knowing that Tom and I wanted to shoot for magazines, made the connection happen. That connection changed the course of our lives in a richly rewarding way.  With Adrian’s encouragement and his willingness to take a chance on two young kids straight out of school, we learned and grew under his mentorship.  That first meeting with Clem was a fateful day.

The thing is, what I remember most about Clem is that I always had a good time with him.  He was fun to be around and incredibly interesting to have a conversation with. I have a lot of memories of Clem that have accumulated over the years but it’s the simple and sometimes silly ones that seem to surface in my head. But isn’t that what life is made of – the everyday moments?  Clem knew that and his stories reflected that.

As I get older, I realize that life is all about our connections with people.  Some of our connections may be short lived and some may last through the years, but I’m sure that each person who enters our lives is meant to play their part.  Yesterday, I saw a lot of old friends who I hadn’t seen in decades.  We all “caught up” on those missing decades and shared regret on letting the years slip by.  But we shared a connection through Clem and always will.

The last line in one of my favorite movies, It’s a Wonderful Life, is a quote by Mark Twain: “No man is a failure who has friends”.  Clem, you’ve got George Bailey beat as the “richest man in town”.

Commitment

March 14, 2014

Commitment is everything.  It’s what makes us get things done.  It’s what makes relationships work.

Gail in bamboo hut in hill tribe village, northern Thailand

Gail in bamboo hut in hill tribe village, northern Thailand

It’s what makes us not give up, no matter how bleak it may look at times. It’s what gets us to stay focused on “the story” and be true to ourselves.

To some people, commitment can be frightening.  Their heads are filled with negative “what if” thoughts of failure that hold them back.  So, they plod along through life letting things happen to them instead of going after what they want. Those are the people who let resistance win.

I’ve always been a determined and committed person – if I say I’m going to do something, you can count on me to do it.  It’s tough sometimes though, to stay committed to myself and to what my true purpose is – it’s far too easy to get caught up with the regular flow of work and life.  But every now and then I get an idea for a creative project that just won’t go away.   When I finally decide to stop ignoring the idea and do something, I have a mechanism I use to help me make the commitment – I tell someone about it.  I’m the type of person that feels, once I’ve told someone I’m going to do something, then I have to do it – just to save face.  I call it “forced accountability.”

Seth Godin writes today about commitment: “One way to play in the digital age is to appeal to those that browse, the window shoppers, the mass audience that can’t and won’t commit.  The alternative is to focus on impact, not numbers and impact comes from commitment. “ He says: “ price is more than an exchange of coins. Price is a story.” Essentially, Godin is saying that in our noisy digital world, where ideas and content are free – we’ve got to be better, to make an impact.  In order to connect with the buyers on an emotional level, we’ve got to be “better than free”.

Every commitment that I’ve ever made has come with tremendous personal growth.  When I traveled around the world a couple of years ago making a feature length documentary, Opening Our Eyes, I not only challenged myself physically and creatively, but spiritually as well and I feel that I became a better person because of it.  I would not have been able to endure the hardships of that journey, nor the intense workload of post production had I not been committed to the idea.

What are you willing to commit to?  Commitment may be frightening, but without it, you may be spending your later years wondering, “what if I had”

Let the Good Times Roll (Laissez les bons temps rouler)

March 10, 2014

If there is one thing I’ve learned from a lifetime of travel, it’s that the more you immerse yourself into the culture of where you are, the more rewarding the experience will be.

This past weekend I flew to New Orleans for a friend’s big birthday bash weekend. 100 of her friends traveled to the Big Easy”Cajun musician playing accordian, New Orleans, Louisiana from all over the world to her help celebrate her 50th in a way that only this city can offer. Most of the activities stayed clear of the French Quarter and the tourist scene and took place in parts of the city that felt “real”.  You can’t help but feel the deep culture and history of this city, once you get yourself beyond the “sleaze”.

We had a couple of memorable dinners but one stands out in my mind, not just for the incredible cuisine, but also because of the company that evening. I was seated between a very distinguished young man from South Africa and a writer from Los Angeles. Across from me was an Italian who was living in London and a couple from Mississippi.  Some folks I had met 10 years ago at the 40th birthday bash. The conversations were diverse and entertaining.

After dinner our group left the restaurant and formed our own parade in typical New Orleans style.  Two NOLA cops on motorcycles led us and a second line band as we marched a few blocks to our next stop. It was a first for me – to be dancing up a New Orleans street, along with 100 other folks enjoying the moment.  It was pure happiness and not just for our group but for all those who came out of their houses or restaurants and bars to watch our small parade go by. I enjoyed every bit of that 4-block walk and it is etched in my mind forever.  And that’s the sort of thing that separates a city like New Orleans from a city like “Vegas”.

I was blissfully exhausted when I boarded my flight home Sunday night. When I ordered a glass of wine, the flight attendant happily announced that the man in 1 A is buying everyone on board a drink tonight. He was getting married and wanted to celebrate with his fellow passengers.  Le bon temps continued to roll.

How to Sustain a Long Career in Photography

February 24, 2014

I came across this old “tear sheet” in the process of cleaning out the attic.  Tom and I have dozens of boxes containing over 35 years of printed collateral with our “work” in it.

Tom Kelly and Gail Mooney

Tom Kelly and Gail Mooney

This brochure cover was from a shoot for I Love NY.  Clearly it was a low budget job, based on the fact that we were also the “talent” in our own photograph.  When this photo was shot, we were just starting out in the business of photography. It’s hard to believe that it’s been over 35 years since we started Kelly/Mooney Photography, because it seems like yesterday.   As I sifted through decades of work, I started thinking  – “What is it that sustains a career?”

Some thoughts:

Don’t let age define you.  Let’s face it; we’re a youth obsessed culture. It’s not easy getting older, especially when you’re in a creative business like photography where “fresh” is equated with “young”. But there’s absolutely nothing you can do about your age.  You can’t change it.  It’s like your height – it is what it is.  But you can choose how you think about it. If you tell yourself that you’re old – you will be.

Take more risks – not less. Why not?  What is the worst that could happen?  Am I the only one who thinks this way?  I guess I was lucky that my mom and dad put those types of thoughts in my head a long time ago and they’ve served me well.  Why should I change my outlook now, when I have fewer years on the planet?

You’ll fail more than you succeed.  I sure have.  In the last couple of years I’ve been rejected more times than not, but only because I have been challenging myself more than at any other time in my career.  I have always “been on the move” in my life and my career and I am not one to stay too complacent or static.  There are just too many things left to explore.

Fear comes with the territory.  Fear is what motivated me to start writing.  For me fear would often visit in the wee small hours of the morning.  My mind would bounce from one unfounded worry to another and I couldn’t turn off the chaos in my head. So rather than toss and turn for hours, I got out of bed and started to write down my thoughts. It’s amazing how trivial some of the worries looked in the light of the day, written on a sheet of paper.

Listen to the ideas that don’t go away.  We all have ideas.  But how many of us act on them?  Less than 5%.  When I have an idea that just won’t “quit me”, I take action. The first thing I do is I commit to the idea.  Then I tell someone – someone I respect, because then I have to carry it out – just to save face.  I call it forced accountability.

Don’t take things for granted.  Nothing stays the same or lasts forever.  Be grateful for your loyal clients and show your gratitude.  Business is all about relationships and it is amazing how people seem to pop in and out of your life.  Doors are always closing and windows are eternally opening in a well-lived life.  Recognize those times when they happen.

Always wonder.  My spirit has not aged past 25 years old.  I still have dreams and they are vivid and real in my mind.  My dreams are propelled by my insatiable curiosity about everything. Many years ago I made the choice to become a professional photographer because I knew that my camera would give me access to a rich and rewarding life and to interesting people, places and cultures. My cameras (“my tools”) are still a means to a life of wonderment.

How the Beatles Influenced Me as a Photographer & Businesswoman

February 12, 2014

With all the hype happening this week around the 50th Anniversary of the Beatles coming to America, I couldn’t help but reflect how much this band influenced my own career as a photographer and filmmaker.

  1. I was inspired me to “capture” history (and use my camera as a means to that end). Beatles on Ed Sullivan Show - February 9, 1964To start with, the first pictures that I remember taking as a child were photos I snapped of the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show.  I vividly remember as I anxiously awaited the show to begin, that I needed to document it somehow.  It was just too important not too.  In fact it was so important that I have kept that snapshot in a small box of memorabilia for 50 years! I’ve spent a career documenting some of the most incredible places, people and events of my time.
  2. They inspired me to be a storyteller.  I used to orally tell stories to just about anyone who would listen to me when I was a very young child.  But when the Beatles hit the scene, about the same time I started noticing the opposite sex, I turned my fantasies into my own written stories.  I’m still writing stories and now translating them into ePubs, books and movies.
  3. They expanded my universe.  I began to “see” things differently because of the Beatles.  I became aware of different cultures, countries, music and wit. It was like an awakening for me and I knew then that I wanted to explore as many cultures and experiences as I could. I’ve spent a lifetime exploring the unknown.
  4. They taught me to always learn, grow and challenge myself. I grew up as a child and later a teenager, during one of the most pivotal and changing decades in America. As the Beatles moved beyond the “feel good” and innocent lyrics of songs like “She loves you…..yeah, yeah, yeah”, to the lyrical depths found on the Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album, I too was changing.  It was like we were growing together. I remind myself daily to always be learning, exploring, growing and challenging myself and that has helped me stay fresh in my career.
  5. I learned that “The Beatles” were more than the sum of 4 individuals. John, Paul, George and Ringo all brought their own unique talents and personalities to make up the most phenomenal band of all time.  But they were also savvy enough to know they needed expert guidance and collaborated with great people like Brian Epstein and George Martin.  It taught me the importance of collaboration and to surround myself with people who have talents that I don’t possess.

How This Beatlemanic Became a Photographer

February 4, 2014

It’s hard to believe it’s been almost 50 years since I took these pictures off of our TV screen. Beatles on Ed Sullivan Show - February 9, 1964 I remember that night like it was yesterday, in vivid detail.

The Beatles had just come to America for the first time, and I was counting down the days until they were scheduled to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show.  I had been soaking up every bit of news about the Beatles all week. In those days that meant listening to the radio as DJ’s gave a blow-by-blow account of what those “crazy lads from Liverpool” were doing.

My family and I were living in Rochester, NY at the time.  I was not quite a teenager, and it was the very first time I fell in love. First with Paul, because he was the cutest and non-threatening.  Later with John, because he was a bit rebellious and he appealed to the adventurous part of me that was emerging.

The day the Beatles were to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show just dragged by.  Dinner was particularly excruciating and each minute seemed like an hour.  My sister and I had commandeered the TV set and no one was getting near it to change the channel.  It was a black & white set – a color TV was prohibitively expensive in those days. I don’t remember who had the idea to take pictures that night but luckily we had some film in the Instamatic. I took just four shots that night.  It was the end of the roll and each click was precious and I remember waiting for the right moments.

I can see by the date stamps on the prints (March 1964), that it took us a month to get the film developed.  That was record speed for my family.  We usually had a year’s worth of holiday pictures on one roll of film when we dropped it off at the drug store for processing.  Luckily the film in the camera was at the end of the roll that evening – otherwise it may have taken months to see photos.

I pasted those photos into my scrapbookBeatlesTicket4 copy almost 50 years ago and they’ve been there ever since, along with my other Beatle memorabilia including my ticket for their performance at Shea Stadium in 1966.  We had moved to the NYC area about a year after I shot these photos, and I actually got to see the Beatles perform twice at Shea – ’65 and ’66.

As I look back at that night on February 9, 1964, I can see where my passion for recording moments in history came from and I’ve been photographing them ever since.

What Happened to Professionalism – or Manners?

January 28, 2014

What does it mean to be a professional?  Regardless of the business you’re in, a professional is someone who treats their clients and their vendors with respect.  That means that everyone should be mindful of his or her manners.8__CS_d_072151  Yes, manners! That may sound old fashioned but being courteous to people never goes out of style.

Some things that define a “professional”:

  • Professionals know how to get the job done, on time and on schedule.
  • Professionals don’t learn on the job.
  • A professional should respect everyone on his or her team – EVERYONE plays a part that makes the whole stronger, even the “guy” who gets coffee.
  • A professional has good manners – that usually means treating people how they wish to be treated.
  • A professional understands that situations change.  That means that the assistant you are dealing with at a magazine or ad agency may just be in a position to hire YOU some day.  Don’t burn your bridges.
  • A professional has an understanding of their clients’ position.  Understanding works both ways. Good clients who are professional will also have an understanding of what their “vendors” are up against.
  • Professionals understand that they don’t work in a vacuum – especially these days.  Bad manners don’t stay isolated – they trickle down.
  • A professional doesn’t ignore people, especially people who they depend on. We are all busy and we all have only 24 hours in our day.  That doesn’t give you a reason to ignore someone.  Unfortunately, this happens all the time, but if you have asked someone to provide you with an estimate for a job that you need to produce and they take their time to provide you with one – give them the courtesy of letting them know if they didn’t get the job.  Remember, they are helping you come up with figures you need to produce the job.  If someone invests their time to do that, don’t you think they deserve to know the outcome?

Remember, we are all connected.  We are all humans, with families, bills to pay, kids to put in college, parents who may be sick etc. etc.  Regardless if we are the one who is dangling the proverbial carrot or on the receiving end of it – I think perhaps we should realize that respect and good manners is the hallmark of a professional.


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