Archive | July 2010

WORLDWIDE PHOTO WALK

Scott Kelby’s third annual worldwidephotowalk was Saturday the 24th. It was the second I have been to–last year in New Haven, CT and this year in Greenwich Village, NY. According to sign-ups over 33 thousand people went out shooting in over 11 hundred cities around the world. How cool is that? Millions of photographs were taken that wouldn’t have been otherwise, as Scott points out.

It could not have been hotter in NYC this past weekend. The exhaust filled wind tunnels which barreled through the streets didn’t help the already simmering 105 degree air. Washington Park, where we met for the photo walk, is home to a large fountain where kids were experiencing relief from the heat. If I had only packed extra clothes, I would have joined them.

On the outskirts of the park there was a group of chess players. I asked the player above for a picture. He said I had to play him for it. Five minutes and two games and ten dollars later I got my pictures. I love the smile that came over his face when I pulled out my camera. Maybe he was just laughing inside about kicking my ass twice in a row.

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LINCHPIN AND GUIDANCE

Just finished Linchpin by Seth Godin. I could agree with the massive amount of reviewers who claim this is Godin’s best book to date, but I haven’t read any of his others (Although The Dip is already on my desk). Or I could agree with those who say this is the best business book of the year, but I haven’t read any other business books either. That’s fine, I cannot classify this as a business book anyway. Linchpin is more than a guide to the changing economy, it is actually quite the opposite. Linchpin is 236 pages of GOYA (Get-Off-Your-Ass). The delivery is not accompanied by a self-help tone, nor by the aggressiveness of a the typical high-energy motivator. Instead, Seth Godin calls your bluff, explains why the endless stream of excuses is so convincing, and then demands forward motion. It is likely that reading this book will make you very uncomfortable. If you are always comfortable you can’t grow.

When I first decided to share this book on here I thought about doing the obvious. Saying how much I liked it, including some of my favorite inspirational quotes, and urging everyone to buy a copy to read. On second thought, as a tribute to the spirit of creativity and the book, I’ll do something a bit different.

Here are five reasons why I would be the worst, and quickest fired guidance counselor of all time:

  1. I understand there are different ways people learn. Not any of that visual/auditory/kinesthetic nonsense, but the real difference. Some people are able to accept the standards while others crave to change them. It’s not rebellion, it’s the urge of creativity and real leadership.
  2. I would press students to not worry about their grades and resumes and transcripts and activity lists. Those things are too regulated to capture a person’s uniqueness or passion.
  3. On top of #2 I would ban the phrase “It looks good for college.” Volunteering, or joining a club for the prospect of university acceptance is like climbing a mountain to stand on the top. If you aren’t passionate about the climb itself (the process/volunteer work/activity) then the only way of reaching the top is by some stroke of luck.
  4. I’d ask the students this simple question: You want to stand out as an adult, to avoid a cubicle, to make a difference… so why are you already buying into the very same system that supplies the cubicles and undermines individualism.
  5. Here is where a very direct relation to Linchpin comes in. Instead of referencing some powerful quotes I want to bring in an entire chapter.

Give Yourself a D

The A paper is banal.

Hand in a paper with perfect grammar but no heart or soul, and you’re sure to get an A from the stereotypical teacher. That’s because this teacher was trained to grade you on your ability to fit in. He’s checking to see if you spelled “ubiquitous” properly and used it correctly. Whether or not your short story made him cry is irrelevant. And that’s how school stamps out (as opposed to bakes in) insight and creativity.

My heroes Roz and Ben Zander wrote an incredible book called The Art of Possibility. One of the most powerful essays in the book describes how Ben changes the lives of his hyperstressed music students by challenging each of them to “give yourself an A.” His point is that announcing in advance that you’re going to do great–embracing your effort and visualizing an outcome–is far more productive than struggling to beat the curve.

I want to go further than that.

I say you should give yourself a D (unless you’re lucky enough to be in Ben’s class). Assume before you start that you’re going to create something that the teacher, the boss, or some other nitpicking critic is going to dislike. Of course, they need to dislike it for all the wrong reasons. You can’t abandon technique merely because you’re not good at it or unwilling to do the work. But if the reason you’re going to get a D is that you’re challenging structure and expectation and the status quo, then YES! Give yourself a D.

A well-earned D.

Give Yourself a D, Linchpin page 59

I love this exercise. It is one that as a guidance counselor I would advise every student to try at least once. The point isn’t to provide a reason to slack off. It actually provides a reason to do more. If you’ll receive a D no matter what you do, then why not go all-out. Try something new, something the rubric doesn’t cover. Why not?

The demise of creativity in school is just one of the many topics covered in the book. It is the foundation and explanation of why we fear creativity and one of the parts I find most interesting. It closely parallels this fascinating conversation from TED:

PROFESSIONAL-LOOKING

This is a sort of follow-up to the last post. While looking at the Canon D10, without much intent on buying, I clicked the informational video on the Canon online store.

The robotic voice explaining the various functions of the camera promises “this powerful processor allows for a clean, professional look and finish to all your photographs.” And again; “you can take action shots that are clear and professional-looking.”

I can’t figure out exactly what professional-looking means. I can presume they are talking about professional gear, rather than professional concept or technique, as it is a marketing video for the camera. I wish people would understand that more megapixles, faster processors, and bigger LCD screens cannot better an otherwise below average photograph. Just look at the iPhone for example, Lee Morris shot beautiful pictures of a local model with his, while Chase Jarvis has dedicated a section of his portfolio to it. The New York Times photography blog, Lens, constantly supports the medium of cellular phone photography.

When digital cameras were developing slowly in their early years, the professional levels of each camera were still significant factors. They just meant to describe the market of the camera (Professional vs. hobbyists and so on) rather than promise great images out of the camera.

It always surprised me when people think their photographs will improve so tremendously from the simple act of buying a DSLR. The only thing that makes it more desirable to have a DSLR is having complete control over the image, if you just want to throw it into auto mode, why lug the heavier camera around? Theres no sense in buying a Ferrari if you hire someone to drive you around in it.

IPHONE FASHION SHOOT

Lee Morris of fstoppers.com proves you don’t need a pro-level camera to produce incredible photographs.

One of the coolest behind-the-scenes videos around. To read more hit up fstoppers.com/iphone & strobist.blogspot.com/its-lighting-stupid.

CAMERA-PHONE

The last time I uploaded a cell phone photo to facebook, something I said I would do everyday, was June 2nd. The problem is not with being uninterested, or even simply forgetting. The problem is an upload process which makes it a hassle to share images. My current cell phone workflow: recorded on cell phone, bluetoothed to computer, moved to external drive, added to iPhoto library, synced with iPod touch, edited and uploaded with iPod touch. It is this process that has forced my mobile uploads to a screeching halt. I sure hope Apple slaps a camera onto the iPod touch next quarter.

But, since it is summer, and I have quite a bit more time, I will resume the project. Once again I’ll be adding pictures daily to my facebook profile. Let’s see  if I can make it the rest of the year.