Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Two Bands, a Makeshift Studio, and Murder Weapons Make For a Great Halloween Portfolio

I'm not particularly crazy about horror films and scaring the living daylights out of myself, but there is something so intriguing and inspirational in creating images of a darker nature. I've always said that I like to make beautiful pictures and that is still very true. I strive to make great pictures every time I pick up the camera. Sometimes even the darkest subjects can make beautiful pictures when interpreted in a certain way.

This is the third year in a row that Larissa and I have created "Halloween" photos. The previous two years involved Larissa and I murdering each other in various ways. This year, the opportunity presented itself to photograph The Pale Barn Ghosts and The Hello Strangers (Larissa's band) in preparation for their Halloween show.

We knew that we wanted to shoot tight portraits of each band member against a black background. I had been thinking about this year's Halloween shot for some time and already had the lighting planned in my head . . . dark shadows, high contrast and mysterious light. We set up our studio in our neighbor's barn, which worked perfectly. I set up in the afternoon and had everything ready for the evening of the shoot. We were able to shoot 8 portraits between 6:30pm and 10:30pm. Pretty damn efficient!

The ninth portrait had to be shot the following week because Brechyn from The Hello Strangers was not able to make it to the previous shoot. We decided to try something a little different with this one by utilizing the spooky closet in my attic. I lit the scene almost identically to the other portraits to keep the mood consistent.

I wanted each band member to really bring his or her ideas to each portrait, and everyone came through. The goal was to show a little bit of each band member's personality while emphasizing our darkest human fears.

Here are a few images from this year's Halloween shoot along with a short video I created to help promote the October 31st show. To see the other 5 images from this shoot, go to the Horror portfolio on our website. To see more of the video shorts, add us as a friend on Facebook.

All photos and video © Ryan Smith Photography

What are you going to be for Halloween?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

World Climate Conference

As leaders from all over the world gather in Copenhagen for the World Climate Conference, I thought it might be worthwhile to re-post something I originally published for Blog Action Day 2009.

By nature I am an optimist, so I still hold a flicker of hope that on this last day of the conference, some form of climate action will be established this year. This is no daunting task. This treaty needs the support of the entire world. If you want to add your name to a petition urging our world leaders to make concessions and reach an agreement, you can add your signature HERE. This is the largest petition I have ever seen and think it says a lot about the challenges surrounding this issue.

Blog Action Day: Climate Change - originally published on 10/15/09

Today is the day that thousands of bloggers are uniting to write about one single issue: Climate Change. It's an issue that affects every single person on this earth, regardless of country, social class or occupation. We are all responsible for our own actions even when we don't realize that the small things we do each day are having significant affects on people across the globe.

Now is a good time to stop and think about our actions and the unintended consequences those actions may have. How do our actions affect ourselves, our neighbors, our fellow countrymen and women, the rest of the world and most importantly our children and their children's children? Climate change is not just a name for an invisible force but a living, breathing organism. Climate change is essentially the Earth. It's our home and we are responsible for it.

I don't pretend for a moment to have an answer for the climate change dilemma. I don't think anyone knows exactly what to do, but in my opinion awareness of one's own actions and the changes that are already happening are an important step in the process. With that said, I have compiled a few links to photographers that are doing great work surrounding the issue of climate change. Take a moment to visit some of these links.

James Balog

Extreme Ice Survey
Photographer James Balog and his EIS team have undertaken an ambitious project to document the Earth's disappearing glaciers by setting up 27 time lapse cameras at 15 sites in Greenland, Alaska, Iceland and the Rocky Mountains. What this has resulted in is over two years of continuous monitoring and a body of work that is absolutely astonishing. If you're still a climate change skeptic, please visit this site and look at the photos and videos.

Sean Gallagher

China's Growing Sands
Photographer Sean Gallagher has lived and worked all over the world and has recently been turning his focus to social and environmental issues in Asia with an emphasis on China. His project about China's Growing Sands is a well-rounded story about desertification in China. The images are shockingly beautiful and haunting. I have visited Sean's work repeatedly and am struck by the power his images have.

Benjamin Drummond

Facing Climate Change
Benjamin Drummond and Sara Joy Steele are a documentary team that have been working on a personal project titled Facing Climate Change. They combine photography, audio and writing to communicate these stories in a compelling way. The work they are doing is incredibly important and more relevant than ever. Visit their work and look through some of the stories they are telling.

What personal stories do you have that relate to climate change? What consequences do your actions have and what can you do to minimize your impact? Please share any links and stories that you think relevant to the discussion on climate change.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Cash Flow: The Ups and Downs of Running a Business

There are times as a business owner when you feel like you're on top of the world, and other times when you're face down in the dirt wondering, "What the heck just happened?" It's inevitable that any business, big or small, will experience fluctuations in cash flow. There are too many factors that are not within our control to be able to constantly regulate a consistent stream of cash. However, there are things we can do to minimize the slide factor.

The illustration above shows a complete imbalance. Imagine your business as both of those little guys. The guy on the left is having his best year ever. Money is flowing in and he is busier than he has ever been. There is so much work that he can barely keep up.

Now look at the guy on the right. He was in the same position as the guy on the left just a few months ago. Business was so good and he was so busy that he couldn't see the point in continuing his marketing efforts. He thought, "Why spend money on promotion when business is already booming and I can barely keep up as it is?" But here's the catch: because he stopped marketing to his customers, they forgot he existed. Business slowly started to fizzle. Less work was coming in, but he was grateful to relax so he continued to ignore his marketing plan. By the time he realized how slow business had become it was too late. He was already completely off balance and heading straight for the bottom.

Despite his current position, he vows to rebuild and never let this happen again. He starts making calls, sending out promotions and networking with clients. He is scared because money is running out and bills are due so he pushes hard . . . really hard. Business starts to come in and he keeps pushing like a madman. He says to himself, "I'm going to get so much business that this will never happen again!"

A year later, he is lying face down again wondering what happened. He repeated the same cycle as the previous year. He pushed so hard for so long that he became burnt out. He let his marketing efforts slide for too long and ended up in the same situation as in the previous year.

So what can he do?

He needs to find a balance . . . a consistent marketing effort mixed with a consistent motivation to keep work coming in without letting it overwhelm him. Maybe he needs an extra employee. Maybe he needs to streamline his workflow. There are any number of things that he might need to do, but the key to all of this is that he consistently promotes his business to existing customers while simultaneously reaching out to new ones.

He needs his cash flow to look more like the next illustration.

In this scenario there are ups and downs but they are much easier to weather than in previous years. He has found the sweet spot. He has leveled his expenses and kept a consistent level of cash flow throughout the year. The marketing plan that he puts in place annually is followed closely and never stops. Business is good but not overwhelming, and some months are better than others.

Now he is balanced on top of the business seesaw, and able to adapt to fluctuations in the economy and changing trends in his industry because he has not allowed himself to get too far up or down on the scale. This may sound too good to be true, but with some planning, foresight, and diligence, the catastrophic scenario in the first illustration can be avoided and a more balanced work and cash flow can be achieved.

How do you balance your work and cash flow?