Now to The Writing

I’m back from a week in Quartzsite, Arizona, where I was gathering material for a future Rock&Gem article. Speaking of which, the editors of that magazine inform me that my next article will appear in their March issue.

Besides writing, I’ll spend time processing the photos I took this week with my new camera. And I’ll be thinking of writing an article for EOS Magazine, which is a Cannon only publication. I’ll be checking, too, on the status of my Stanton Delaplane book proposal and I’ll need to get ready for an upcoming trip to Atlanta. Much to do.

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Photoshop is More Magical Than You Think

Take a look at these before and after photos. The first photo shows a roughly corrugated gold flake no more than two centimeters across. With my fancy new macro lens the lower middle is squarely in focus. And that’s it. This was quite a disappointment to me after spending money on a new camera and lens. The whole point of my photography project was to get good images for my articles in Rock&Gem Magazine (internal link). What’s going on?

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The depth of field at such high magnification renders everything flat. So if there is a high and a low to your object, no matter how tiny that variation, the macro lens just can’t handle it. I’m learning one way to get around this and it’s called automated focus stacking (external link).

Basically, you take four or five photos at different focal points and blend them all together. That is, you take several shots, each at a high and a low and a middle. You focus correctly for each shot, each variation, even if the rest of the field is out of focus. Then, using Photoshop black magic, you gather up your photos into a single file, have Photoshop align them, then watch as they are blended together. See the image below.

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Notice the improvement? It’s amazing. I feel like I am practicing some dark art or witchcraft. Yes, there are areas that need improvement in the photo but this is just my second try. With a steadier tripod, more focal points, and more practice, I might just get this down. I can at least see there is a path toward a perfectly focused specimen. And I am gaining a deep appreciation for the professional photographer.

This points out, too, that this is the product of a home studio or spare bedroom. No way could you cruise through a rock and gem show and hope to duplicate this method on a vendor’s shaky table with poor lighting. Click on the photos if you want to see the full sized images.

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Update on Adobe Stock Photography

I posted a test image to Adobe Stock (internal link) twice by accident. It was subsequently rejected by two different moderators for two different reasons.

The first moderator said the image had too much noise. Too grainy. That’s understandable because the photo was taken with a long telephoto lens.

The second is more interesting and it leaves me wondering:

During our review, we found that it contains elements that appear to be protected by intellectual property laws, so we can’t accept it into our collection. Please review the following intellectual property rights guidelines:

Protected elements can be certain objects depicted in an image as well as protected terms (like names or trademarks) in the image’s description, title and/or keywords. Here are some examples of subjects protected by intellectual property laws:

Commercial products (e.g., toys, fashion items, electronic devices and designer furniture) should never be in focus and/or be the main subject of the content if they’re identifiable and distinctive in visual appearance, like shape or color.

I submitted the photo just as an experiment. I wasn’t really happy with it because there was no blue sky that day but I wanted to go through Adobe Stock’s process.  Now that I have, I have more questions. I don’t know how you can have a men at work photograph without showing the equipment they are working on. Clearly there are no names or trademarks visible. I’ll see if there is a way to ask questions and if I get a response I’ll update this page.

Click on the photo for a larger version. This isn’t the full version which is much too big for the web. I think it’s a pretty dramatic shot, despite the overcast sky.

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News and Notes to Start The Year

Quartzsite Coming Up

Next week I’ll travel to Quartzsite, Arizona (external link) to see what’s been called the world’s largest flea market. Most notably, at the so called QIA POW WOW show, some five hundred vendors will be selling rocks, gems, jewelry, fossils, and minerals. Truly, a rockhound’s paradise. Beyond the show grounds will be countless other vendors also selling rocks as well as everything from Mexican piñatas to metal garden sculptures. I’ll be writing an article on spec for Rock&Gem magazine (internal link) about the event.

World’s Fastest Query Letter?

In mid-march I’m taking a day tour of the Nevada National Security Site, a normally off-limit area once used for atomic testing. Although cameras are not permitted, I think the tour will make for a great article. I’ve queried a national magazine, taking all of twenty minutes to do so. With my high rejection rate I am now concerned about being efficient when proposing an article. I could spend hours on a query but, really, how well have I done doing that?

Nevada Agriculture: Past and Present is Looking for a Sponsor

My Nevada agriculture book proposal (external link) has been turned down by the first outfit I approached. To be realistic, the book would have a limited audience so I am concerned it may not find an outlet. I’ve done a little investigating into e-books and this seems a possible, affordable way to publish. Kindle, for example, does not charge to publish a book, instead they take a percentage of sales. While publishing may be free, the hard part, after the writing, is all of the formatting needed to make something attractive. Not my speciality. But there is software to help. More to learn.

Speaking of proposals, my ag book proposal is already out of date. In the time since I wrote it, only months ago, a wide swath of land called Gold Butte has been grabbed by the government and turned into a national monument. That wrecks my statistics on federal land ownership in Clark County. And recreational marijuana has been approved in Nevada, again destroying what I wrote about it as a crop. The tyranny of hardcopy type. All of which argues, perhaps, for not a book but a website that could be built and kept up to date as Nevada agriculture changes through the years. But Yipe! Talk about a project. I ramble. I’ll check in later from Arizona.

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A New Year, A New Gig

I’ve been picked up as a contract writer for Catalogs.com. It’s another writing gig and another income stream I’m happy to have. I found out about them through Flexjobs.com (internal link). Catalogs.com provides a list of topics to write on as well as keywords for each article.

Catalogs.com is pretty straightforward. They are a clearing house for hundreds of internet and hardcopy catalogs. Each seller has a page at Catalogs.com and a link to their main website. Informational articles such as I write have links to different merchants in the Catalogs.com portfolio.

I get a byline and a bio and some money for each article I write. Their staff is very tolerant of questions and allowing for different writing styles. I’m able to write with humor which helps make writing more fun. Check out my first article here (external link). The screenshot below is just part of the article.

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Thoughts on Selling Into Stock Photography

My new camera may allow me to put photos up at Adobe Stock (external link), a photo stock service with over 60 million images. The images would quietly wait there until someone bought the rights and then I would be paid a royalty. Adobe, in other words, does not pay you upfront, rather, only when someone goes to buy. As far as I can tell, there is no fee for posting. Just technical requirements (external link) Here’s why I think this kind of selling is intriguing.

My new camera has WiFi and an app that allows me to take pictures remotely. I could have a tripod set up at my place, across the street from a nearby cell site. Using my smartphone, I would not have to be at the tripod continuously, instead, I could have the camera trained on a certain spot and I could then wait for the right moment. Take a look at the examples below.

These are three handheld shots just used as an example. See how I caught the face of one of the workers in the shot below? That’s good, since people with their backs turned don’t make good subjects. Notice how the other worker is bending down? That’s bad. This is why photographers have to be patient. They make take hours and hours and dozens of shots to get the right image. But using remote imaging might allow me to do my writing while keeping an eye on what’s going on.

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This next shot would be interesting except the worker looks like he lost his head. Notice, too, the heavy shadows. Not good. As photographers say, “I am waiting for the right light.” Hmm. I wonder if I could bring out his head in Photoshop . . .

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Here I approach my goal. A face shot but not with enough recognition that I would have to get a model release. This shot is framed poorly, however, with the antenna array on the right side out of the picture.

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Having used many stock photo services for my law office blogs, I know there is a demand for just about any kind of image, including men at work photos. I took a look at what Adobe Stock has now and none of them include people. A person in a photo always looks better. IMHO.

I’ve heard arguments that photographers shouldn’t give away rights to their photos by using stock photo services. But this to me looks like an opportunity for another income stream, even if small, as I get better and better with my new equipment.

NB: Update. After a short while of working, the remote imaging capability stopped working. I’ve now installed updated firmware, reinstalled the Canon Connect app, done cold starts of both the camera and the iPhone and on and on. I even used an outdated app, just to see if that would work. After several hours I have given up and will call tech support when I get the time. Apparently I am not the only one having problems, judging by the complaints on the net.

Another update: I got the remote imaging to work through my tablet, which gives me a bigger screen to work with. But as with all things wireless there is a delay between the right moment and when the camera actually clicks the shutter. It’s still the same story: wait for the right shot with the camera firmly in hand or on a tripod. Oh, one more thing.

I got a terrific shot of the cell site workers today. But I lost my blue sky from yesterday. Today is cloudy and no more wonderful blue. Again, never miss an opportunity.

Yet another update: The image below was shot through a window using a remote imaging app on my iPad. The camera turned off at one point. I am now looking for a power cord. I think the camera shuts down WiFi when the battery gets too low. I could also use a more colorful humming bird. 🙂

Still yet another update: Uploaded a photo to Adobe Stock on January 3rd, only to discover on the tenth that Adobe has no record of my doing so. Also no record of my tax information or anything related to my profile. I had to reenter everything. Although this time they didn’t ask for a copy of my state ID, something they did the last time. The only thing I can think of is that I registered under another Adobe ID, of which I probably have several, all created over twenty years.

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