I love this time of year. The world comes out of its hibernation and comes back to life after a long cold winter. Looking back at this year, this wasn't the coldest year but it may be one of the longest consistent cold winters in recorded history. Of course, I wasn't alive for most of that so I can't attest to a bitter cold winter 50 years ago, so lets just say it was the coldest in my recent memory.
Of course, with Spring comes storms, especially here in the Great Plains. Most of us who have lived here for many years know what's to come and prepare for anything. There are some though who have just moved into the area who may not understand fully how the season works in these parts.
Tornadoes aren't something that occur everyday. In fact, most years you won't be within 50 miles of one. But anyone who lives in Tornado Alley could be affected by one at anytime. This means everyone should have a plan on how to react to severe weather, not only for themselves, but for their families as well. If you're at work, know where to go. If you have a family, they should know what to do when the time comes. This means knowing where to go for shelter, when to take shelter and the difference between watches and warnings so you aren't spending your entire spring in the hidey-hole.
Watches are released when a general area has the possibility of severe weather. There are several types of watches. Severe, Tornado, Fire, High Winds, etc. A tornado watch is something to definitely pay attention to, but doesn't require a reaction at that point. It does mean think about your plan (which you will have in place after reading this right?). A tornado warning can be issued due to what the radar shows. In this scenario, radar is showing a rotation and there could quite possibly be a tornado on the ground. A tornado warning could also be a confirmed tornado has touched down and has been reported by spotters, chasers, or LEO. The tornado warning is where you want to implement your plan if it is in your area. These days the National Weather Service has really done a great job of issuing warnings that only cover the immediate area in an effort to reduce false alarms, but just paying attention to the weather and staying informed will help tremendously in whether you should take shelter or if it's 25 miles away with no threat to you.
The moral of the story is have a plan and be ready to implement it. I have a plan, and in the last couple of days have discussed it with my family so we know what to do when the time comes. Usually I will be out chasing the tornadoes, but the El Reno tornado last year being on a direct path to my home reminded us that it can happen to anybody. Be safe this year, and I'll be doing the same and hopefully capturing some beautiful images.
If you do a quick Google search for selling landscape, nature, or any photography for that matter there is a common theme between them all. Selling photography is flat out tough. There are literally millions of photographers armed with DSLR's and many of them are very good at what they do. A great percentage of them get into photography because they love it. As that love grows, so does the urge to make a living doing it. It's not long after that most find out how tough it is and even though they may bring in some side money enough to possibly pay for some equipment that's about as far as it goes.
But, some of us are hard headed, including me. I started out taking pictures of storms with a point and click and got to the point where my pictures just weren't doing any justice to what I was witnessing. So, I made the investment and upgraded my camera, got some glass and went out and did my thing. After a while, I had a good stockpile of photos that I had taken over the years and thought I might take the chance that someone in the billions of people in this world would find one of my photos nice enough to spend their hard earned money on. It took a while, but I found a couple of places to list my photos, worked on my pricing and business model and finally after months of trying to get my work out there I received my first order. It was one of the most exciting and scary things all at once. Now someone was paying me for the work that I had put in, and I had to provide the goods. This included processing the photo, packaging it, and sending to the customer all the while hoping that it would get there in great shape. Luckily, it did and it was one of the most satisfying feelings. Each order I receive feels the same way these days, and it is one of the driving forces in capturing the perfect photo. Not only do I find satisfaction when I do good work, but when someone else feels the same way there is no words to describe the great feelings.
But, to get back to the topic....selling photography is tough, making money is even tougher. When many people sell photography, the market get saturated with millions of photos. When the market is saturated, not only is it tough to get found, but then you have to compete so you lower your pricing. When you lower your pricing, margins drop or maybe fall to break even or lose money. It doesn't take a business genius to figure out this doesn't make for a great business.
So.....what can be done to possibly turn a profit? (Notice I didn't say make a living).
First of all, your photography has to be good. People don't want to buy a blurry photo of a sunset with power lines and the apartment complex off to the right. Learn to compose your photos in a way that presents your subject in the best way possible, whether it's people or tornadoes, or flowers, etc. Make it interesting, no matter the subject.
Second, find your outlet. There are so many places to sell photography, and each one has their advantages and disadvantages. There are online outlets like Smugmug, Zazzle, 500px, Fine Art America...the list goes on and on. You may need to list in every place you can to be seen, and even this doesn't guarantee you will make a sale. Local places like coffee shops, restaurants, local stores, etc. can be good places to display your work to a local audience. This of course requires getting out and pounding the pavement, and again is not a guaranteed way to sell your beautiful photography.
Third, find your market. What kind of photography do you do? If it's people you like to photograph, maybe doing family portraits or engagement photos is the way to go. If you like landscapes, you want to be connected to people who spend money on that type of photography. Possibly someone who is doing home decor, maybe the locals who live in the area and can relate to the photo. For me, it's those who are interested in storms and find them fascinating.
Fourth, determine your price. Don't undercharge for your work. You put a lot of time and money in creating that photo. Consider the real cost (equipment, travel time and expenses, cost of production) and set your pricing at a margin high enough to make it worth your time. Pricing your photography low can actually discourage customers from buying, and does nothing for you or the market in general. Photographers work hard to hone their craft, and being undercut devalues all photography.
Lastly, just do what you love. When you enjoy what you do, it translates in your work and people can pick up on it. It's part of what brings value to the photography, what you put into it and how someone can relate to it. Even if you don't sell one photo, as long as it brings you joy it is paying dividends.
Leave a comment below and let us know if you have been able to do well with your photography business.
It's happened to all of us, or at least I'm pretty sure most of us. You get the most awesome opportunity for the best photograph ever and think you've got it....then upload and #fail. What happened? Maybe one of these seven reasons will help explain why. If not, it has happened to me and it will be my chance to wallow in past failures.
1. You didn't use the tripod! Who cares if it's late evening, the sun is mostly down and there is heavy cloud cover. I can hold the camera just as still and it's such a pain in the arse anyways. Actually, a good tripod can be one of the most valuable assets a photographer has, assisting tremendously with sharpness and is absolutely necessary for exposures longer than 1/40th of a second.
2. You treat your ISO like it's the SAT. In trying to overcome #1, you've turned it up to 1600 so you don't need that cumbersome old tripod. The bad news is your photo has more grain in it than a wheat elevator and you'll need some serious noise reduction to overcome it, softening your sharpness and losing a lot of detail. Try to shoot with ISO as low as possible - 100 or so to keep the noise away.
3. Your F-Stop was so-low. You have a beautiful mountain scene with trees and mountains, flower and bears. Photo time! Unfortunately the aperture was set at 4.5 and with a shutter speed of 1/500. This is cool if the bears were running (hopefully away from you) and you're wanting an action shot, but for capturing everything sharply you want your aperture at at least an F11 or higher, depending on your glass for everything to be in focus.
4. Too much or too little exposure. You're shutter speed is slow, your F-stop is low and your ISO is high. Click. Look, a photo as white as this page! Or the opposite, and you get a blank photograph. This happens a lot when you start working with your camera manually, but it doesn't take long for these to go away. I still get them on practice shots because I shoot in manual mode only these days, and haven't perfected the settings I need based on the lighting without some trial and error.
5. Composition is for English majors. You got the awesome sunset picture but the brown dirt field brought it down. Taking a different angle and including a barbed wire fence, a windmill, or even a cow could take it from a nice photo to a great photo in an instant.
6. Everything is turned to plastic. So you found this really cool old barn with a tractor and a pond. It needs a little boost from something but not sure what it is. Lets try this HDR tool....boom! So what if it looks like a space age barn and the colors look like something from a Woodstock acid trip, that's cool! Umm, not really.
7. All we are is dust on the lens. What the heck is that flying saucer above that distant mountain in this photo? Is that a ghost to the left of that tree? Nope, it's a speck of dirt or a water droplet that's dried on the lens. Gotta keep it clean. This has really burned me on storm chases where the humidity hits the cold air and fogs the glass up.
There are plenty more things that can happen from the click of the shutter button to final processing that can blow up a photo. Unfortunately all of these have happened to me in the learning process, but that's part of the fun of learning to be a photographer.
Please share your experiences and let us know what has happened to your photo that left you wanting a re-do!
As we make our way into the beginning of 2014, I thought I'd take a look back at the 2013 storm season and everything that happened in a very eventful and tragic year as seen through my eyes.
2013 started off very slowly as far as the storm season was concerned. There were a handful of days in the month of March that promised severe weather but for the most part it held off. For my part, I chased in North Central Texas on March 8th, and then the Texas Panhandle on March 9th. Both days held little promise of anything more than decent sized hail and they both lived up to their expectations. April brought a bit more activity, taking me to Northern Colorado for a beautiful supercell that wouldn't have an equal the rest of the season in its structure. I stayed the night in Goodland, KS that night at a toasty 73 degrees only to wake up to 26 degree temps and freezing rain due to a cold front that rushed though faster than expected. I spent a good portion of the next day rushing back south to Oklahoma trying to beat the cold front for the next days chase and winning only by about two hours, and ultimately losing because the cap wouldn't break storms loose in Southwest Oklahoma.
A little over a week later I found myself back in Southwest Oklahoma again, this time for a moderate risk setup that had outbreak potential. After chasing a northern cell, I finally dropped south and chased a storm that had quite a bit of rotation and stayed tornado warned for most of its life, but at the end of the day there were no tornadoes produced. I did manage to capture one image that has become one of my most popular photos:
Another month went by with really no opportunity for storm chasing other than a few marginal setups that yielded a few nice photos but nothing more. Then came Mid-May.
The first day of the turn of storm season happened in Central Kansas on May 18th. It was not a particularly impressive setup but chasers (including me) were all itching for something to chase by this time and the hunger was palpable. It was delayed by a stubborn cap and made more than a few people think about their decision to stay put or head north or south. Staying put would be the winning decision this day. It ultimately produced four beautiful tornadoes in the middle of nowhere and provided one of the best tornado photo opportunities since Campo, CO.
The next day brought another opportunity, this time it was in a couple of different places: Southern Kansas and Central Oklahoma. I chose Southern Kansas and came away with a beautiful if not artistic rope tornado.
And then there was May 20th. The day an EF-5 tornado ripped through Moore, Oklahoma that I wrote about in this blog article. Seeing it from birth and moving through the populated area will always be one of the toughest things I've seen.
The next week also provided fireworks. I chased up to Salina, KS only to pick the wrong day to chase Salina, KS. The setup the day before on May 27th held promise for severe weather, and ultimately it did happen but no tornadoes. The next day was the big day though, as what is now known as the "Bennington Tornado" touched down for a good hour and didn't really move the whole time. I regret missing this event.
May 31st, El Reno, Oklahoma. Possibly the most historic day in storm chasing history. I started out chasing this event, starting in El Reno only to end up heading back east to move my family out of the way since it was on a direct path towards my home. It produced the widest tornado on record at 2.6 miles, and killed three highly regarded storm chasers: Tim Samaras, his son Paul, and Carl Young. The news was shocking the day I heard it on the Sunday after, and still hasn't really sunk in fully. The chasing world was and still is devastated and will be felt for a long time to come.
Finally, the season came to a close with a late November setup that warranted a "high risk" to be issued in the Midwest. Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan were in the cross-hairs of fast moving storms (60 mph!) with tremendous shear making anything that developed a destructive machine. Washington, IL took the brunt of the hit that day and is still recovering from the storm.
Overall, it was a year of extremes that etched itself not only the the history books, but in the heart.
2013 is wrapping up and winter here in Oklahoma has been well established since about mid-Fall. After a brutal cold spell last week, this week brings us freezing rain that coated anything that had the nerve to be outside. The cold rain started falling on Friday evening through the overnight, eventually coming to a close mid-Saturday afternoon. What it left behind was a beautiful thick coat of ice that not only caused power outages, but created a beautiful outer shell on everything ready to be photographed. Here are a few scenes from today's winter ice storm.
Earlier today Storm Assist posted their twelve choices for their 2013 calendar, with one photo to be selected for the DVD cover. One of those photos was one that I took during the May 20th tornado that devastated the Moore, OK community. In the contest, a like of the photo counts as a vote, and the photo with the most votes is the one that will serve as the cover of the DVD. Even if I don't take first prize it is quite an honor to be included with so many talented people and it is such a worthy cause, helping those who have been impacted by storms.
You can vote on my photo here. Here is the photo that will be included in the calendar, and if I'm lucky enough will be on the cover of the 2013 DVD. Please stop by before Friday, December 6th and like my photo for your vote!
I've traveled across a good portion of the U. S. and always enjoy the scenes each area has to offer. Whether it's the mighty Columbia river along the Oregon and Washington border, historic St. Augustine in Florida, the back country of Yellowstone, or the sagebrush flat lands of Texas, the magnificence of each place is breathtaking in its own way.
Then there are the not so breathtaking places, where you have to look a little deeper. On the plains each spring I hit the road, and I'm never quite sure where it will take me each time I go out. When I chase storms, it's not just the storms that are the attraction for me. It's the small towns, the wildlife, anything really that is out of the ordinary. I thought I'd share a few photos here of the neat things I see on the road that don't quite make the highlight reels, but are special in their own way and unforgettable.
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