Fall Back Into Health

Written by stuestler on October 4th, 2014
_MG_3037What does Health and Wellness have to do with photography? Well as it turns out, quite a bit.
For one thing, we do everything better when we’re feeling good. And it can be downright tough to pick up a camera and take pictures when we’re suffering from some nasty illness or injury. In fact it can be tough to do almost anything when we feel bad. So getting and staying healthy keeps us at our peak to live our lives to the fullest.
Then there’s the emotional aspect of feeling well. We all talk about enjoying “going out and taking pictures”. There’s much more to that and just recording light on a digital sensor (that would be “recording light on little flecks of silver” for those of us who once roamed with the mastodons).
We receive a big emotional lift from the creative process we enjoy when we’re making photographs. It’s one of our favorite methods of reducing all the stress that seems to be an inevitable part of our lives. Even if we’re making photos for a living, and we’re working under the target of a “deadline”, we easily forget all about that and get completely absorbed in the actual creative activities when we’re shooting.
Controlling stress is a massively important factor in maintaining our health.
So it actually makes perfect sense for me to be working with my colleague to offer you this dynamic Health and Wellness workshop.
The details:

Fall Back Into Health

Six Weeks to a Healthier, Happier, Less-Stressed You

 

At the Potomac Community Center

11315 Falls Rd, Potomac, MD 20854

Sundays from 3:00 – 4:30 pm

 

ThisFree Six-Week Program Includes

  • Four Live Health Workshops 10/12, 10/19, 11/2, 11/16
  • Phone and email coaching and support

Our experts share their secrets for maintaining optimal health in mind, body, and spirit even as the days get shorter and the pace picks up.

  • October 12-Eating Right for Busy People
  • October 19-Eliminating Stress
  • October 26-Health coaching by phone
  • November 2-Making Fitness a Habit…Without Killing Yourself
  • November 9-Health coaching by phone
  • November 16-“Graduation”… and planning for your next six weeks.

Keep that vibrant “summer health feeling”

even with the challenges of fall!

 

Register Today

Call Judie at 301 424-8823 or Stu at 301 340-2259

Or email us at stu@stuestler.com

 

 

The workshops begin next Sunday, October 12th, so be sure to register right away. Space is limited!
 

Design4Kids InFocus

Written by stuestler on January 6th, 2014

_MG_1140Those of you who have been long-time members and readers are aware of the work I do with the Design4Kids Workshops working with Fotokids, the world-renowned program developing the creative drive and thinking in the disadvantaged youth of Guatemala.

I met Nancy McGirr, the director of Fotokids about four and a half years ago when a “coincidental” encounter put me in contact with Jeff Speigner, a graphic designer who had met Nancy a year earlier and had just developed the fledgling Design4Kids project. The story of that “coincidence” is a whole post in itself, and a monumental example of the Law of Attraction in action.

Design4Kids is a group of graphic designers, photographers and professionals from various areas of experience who have come together to help teach business-based skills to the Fotokids students, furthering their quest to create a positive, meaningful life for themselves and their loved ones. The for-profit design firm, Jakaramba, is now well into its third year, a result in great degree of the Design4Kids program.

This week I’m back in Guatemala to teach what will be the first of a departure from our usually graphic design and photography related, client oriented workshop projects. I’ll be the sole mentor working with Nancy and Linda Morales teaching advanced photography skills and portfolio development to a group of some of the more advanced Fotokids students in Santiago Atitlan. Linda, by the way is a former Fotokids student and is now one of the program’s chief instructors. She’s a highly accomplished artist and educator.

Design4Kids InFocus kicked off Sunday in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala. After introductions all around, the workshop opened with the instructors sharing their work with the students and a review of student work. The core theme of the workshop is portfolio development, and additional photography.

Monday. Our first full day of instruction began with Linda teaching the basics of the dSLR followed by my lesson on using reflectors to modify light and control contrast.

The nine students, with an average age of 13 years, are already experienced and talented photographers. This first photography-only centered Design4Kids workshop promises to be and exciting time.

I’ll be posting daily updates on our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/design4kids so go ahead and “like” our page to receive updates on the workshop and what the kids are doing. You can check out some of our previous workshops there too. You can also see more info on Design4Kids at www.design4kids.org.

And you definitely want to see the whole Fotokids story at www.fotokids.org.

Be sure to like our page, www.facebook.com/design4kids, and tell the people you know all about it too.

Hasta pronto.

 

 

 

 

 

A Pretty Amazing Place …

Written by stuestler on May 21st, 2013

Yes, this is supposed to be a photography blog, but there are no photos associated with this story. The closest thing to a camera I had with me when it all occurred was my iPhone camera, and it would have been useless for this situation.

So would it be okay if this time I try to show you what I’m saying by painting pictures with words?

 

I live in Darnestown, MD. It’s kind of on the edge of suburban Gaithersburg and the still open rural “agricultural preserve” area of Montgomery County, one of the mega-suburbs of Washington, DC.

My house is an old farmhouse, on about 2 equally old acres of land. Much humbler than it sounds. There’s a small porch behind the house looking over the back yard. The back yard is maybe  an acre or a little less of open grass, surrounded by trees on three sides. But it’s not a solid ring of trees.

Sitting on the porch, from the right side there’s a stand of trees going back and then breaking at about “1 o’clock” for about twenty feet, a few larger trees but no underbrush so you can see through to more grass area and the deeper woods of Seneca State Park beyond.

Then there’s a patch of trees with pretty solid undergrowth – you can’t see through it. That’s from about 12:30 to 12:00 coming around counter-clockwise.

Then there’s another open area with an old redbud and a young(er) though steadily growing oak, but clear underneath, opening back onto another uncut wild grass area that goes back into the tree line of the park.

Then at about 11:30 and on to the left there’s a stand of big old boxwoods surrounding an old garden, and the line of trees along the property up around to the left.

Got the picture?

So, this evening near sunset I’m sitting on the porch, deeply in thought about sales and marketing questions, trying to come up with the perfect conversation introduction, when I hear a huffing and puffing and snorting sounding like it’s coming from in or behind that patch of thick trees and brush at right rear, between 12:30 and 1:00.

This ruckus went on for 4 or 5 minutes. Sounded “deer-like”, but unusual for this time of year.

Then it stopped.

One of the younger does had previously just walked halfway up the yard and looked at me, half cautious and half annoyed by my presence. She’s really rough looking – an odd too-light color coat, scruffy like she has mange, thin as a rail with the ribs sticking out. The “humane” result of the anti-hunters getting their way about controlled hunts in the park.

But she walked off and I didn’t see any of the others. They’re usually around in groups of three or four at a time at this time of evening.

Well anyway, about another five minutes after the noise stops, out comes one of the older does walking through the clearing at 12:00 to the left, followed right behind by a fawn, walking quite well, not fumbling around on its new legs. About a foot high, barely taller than the grass. No bigger than the red fox that strolls around having decided he owns the property. About the size of a big, happy,  lazy house cat. But much leaner and livelier.

And it occurs to me – all that huffing and snorting – was the doe, giving birth!

For the past month I’ve been watching two obviously pregnant does waddling around among the herd that makes their home in my yard, coming up and eating at the base of the bird feeder where the birds scatter all the seed in their mad rush to get to the good stuff, the sunflower seeds.

For this one, today was the day!

The little guy will disappear for the next four to six weeks, tucked away deep in the woods until mom decides it’s time to come on out of hiding and learn the ropes of deer life.

Yes they’re pests that I not too kindly refer to as “wood rats”, grey-tan, long nosed, long tailed, carrying disease and tearing up everything. They’re the bane of my garden, and the reason I have to fence every plant I want to have a prayer of surviving.

But for those three months or so, from mid-June to September, it is a blast seeing those little spotted guys bouncing around, acting like – well, like the little kids they are. Even though their parents are trying to devastate my garden while the kids cause a diversion.

But geeze, they’re fun to watch grow up.

Oh, and about 15 minutes later the other pregant doe was at the bird feeder, with three or four of her compadres. So there’s still more to come.

 

And so once again, right in the middle of the daily challenges of making a business happen, I am reminded – life is a pretty amazing place to live!

 

 

Photographers and Designers Gathering For Design4Kids 8

Written by stuestler on November 9th, 2012

Photographers and Graphic Designers will get together tomorrow, November 10th inAntigua Guatemala for the eights Design4Kids design & photo workshop.

In addition to most of our regulars we have a few new mentors this time, and an entirely new group of students. Seems the previous group we’ve worked with for the past four years have done so well they’ve all gone on to teaching at Fotokids, and to working professionally in the field.

This workshop will be a departure from the familiar in another way – rather than going out to Santiago Atitlan as we have in the past, D4K8 will take place inAntigua,Guatemala, the charming former capital city of the country, resurrected from the ruins of a number of earthquakes over the past centuries.

And speaking of earthquakes, for those of you who follow the news outside our own little bubble here in theUS, the quake on Wednesday did most of its damage in the west of the country. While it was felt in Antigua andGuatemala   City, the damage there was minor if any, with no significant injuries.

All of our hearts go out to the families and friends of the 48 people who lost their lives and the many who are injured and now homeless in the areas in and aroundSan Marcos.

As in the past I’ll do my best to post a few updates during the workshop in the upcoming week, technology and time allowing.

You can find out more about Fotokids and Design4Kids at www.fotokids.org  and www.design4kids.org . And if you’re a Facebook user, check Fotokids’ and Design4Kids’ pages there for more live updates on the workshop.

 

Candid Street Photography and an HDR Workshop at Design4Kids7

Written by stuestler on January 20th, 2012

Thursday the Design4Kids group took a break from workshop classes. Each workshop includes an excursion day, giving everyone an opportunity for a bit of sightseeing and the chance to take some photos in a new environment. Along the way we all learn a little more about the area and its people.

The morning saw everyone pile into one of the many water taxis that ply Lago Atitlan, and take the short trip around Vulcan San Pedro to the small town ofSan Juanla Laguna. This small pueblo is the home of many of the local artists and traditional textile cooperatives.

The first thing we see is the result of the torrential rains of a year ago, which caused the lake level to raise by nearly two meters. The water has remained at this new level, and the entire first block of town, previously filled with waterfront shops is now half submerged.

This is a scene repeated all around the lake, and most local businesses have relocated to higher ground and reopened.

There were great opportunities for candid street photography, and the majority of the people here seem quite open to being photographed. Of course there is always the occasional shy subject. The town itself provides a backdrop for creative photography of all kinds.

After returning to our workshop base at la Posada Santiago, Moe Murdock held a great drawing workshop, which was followed by an impromptu mini-class in HDR –HighDynamicRange– photography.

We discussed the entire process of planning your photograph for HDR processing, making the series of exposures and then combining yhem in HDR software.

There are nearly limitless variations of processing options, from very photo-like with expanded shadow and highlight range to the highly graphic look of exaggerated tone-mapping. Of course the kids latched on to the way-out there look right away!

Photos of the day’s activities are posted on the Design4Kids Facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/Design4Kids

Tomorrow is the final day of the workshop. The graphic design projects are due, and the lesson plans for teaching the digital SLR camera will be presented. Preliminary work looks very good!

– Stu Estler

 

Reviewing Digital SLR Camera Basics

Written by stuestler on January 18th, 2012

We’ve completed the first phase of Design4Kids7, reviewing and refreshing the basics of using the digital SLR cameras with the classes.

Since these students have come up through Fotokids for ten and more years, they began with film SLR cameras. Most already have a pretty good understanding of concepts such as depth of field and capturing motion effects, and the exercises they’ve completed are useful to reinforce what they know.

A few need a little more study and practice. The beginning digital camera work at the school uses point and shoot cameras, much like many people like you. While the basics of photography apply to all types of cameras, the step up to the SLR allows a much greater degree of control in applying these concepts.

The concept of the assignment here was to think of ten or more ways to create blur in a photo.

The most obvious, moving the camera and not focusing properly were of course represented, but everyone went well beyond those, usually considered mistakes, to illustrating concepts such as selective depth of field, using a slow shutter to blur subject movement and panning the moving subject.

To see what they’ve been up to chekc out Design4Kid’s Facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/Design4Kids?ref=ts

Now it’s time for the classes to put what they know into lesson plans that will allow them to effectively teach what they know to their students, realizing that the young people they work with learn differently than adults.

We’re anxious to see what they come up with!

 

Design4Kids 7 Photography & Design Workshop – Teaching the Teachers

Written by stuestler on January 8th, 2012

Just one week until we’re in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala for the Design4Kids 7 Workshop! No one could have imagined four years ago that this would grow from a vague idea that we could do something positive here to become an institution that we as instructors look forward to as much as the students.

This will be a very special workshop. All of our Fotokids students who will attend are no longer “the kids”. This group is made up of graduates of the Fotokids program, all now in college and all currently teaching the new generation of Foto“kids”.

Veterans Jeff Speigner, Eric Lolkema and myself will be joined once again by Moe Murdock, who is destined to become another of our regulars. Our objective in this workshop is twofold.

On the Graphic Design side, Jeff and Moe will be working with the group to further develop and refine the Jakaramba design studio identity, the fully operational (and profitable) business that was born of the Design4Kids project.

Moe, the incredibly talented illustrator who stole the show last June at Design4Kids 6 has promised to conduct at least one session on how he performs his illustration magic on paper and in computer. I’m personally looking forward to learning all I can from that lesson, right alongside our Fotokids bunch.

On the Photography side, Eric and I will be working with the Fotokids students/now teachers to develop and improve their lesson plans for teaching topics such as using the digital SLR, using fill flash and more advanced exercises in Depth of Field, Motion Effects and working with the color of light.

A little better technology and hopefully improved internet reliability at La Posada Santiago where we stay and work from will perhaps allow regular updates from the workshop, so stay tuned!

– Stu Estler

 

Getting to the (Focus) Point

Written by stuestler on January 4th, 2012

When we talk about using the aperture to control depth of field during our Photo Walks, Classes and Workshops, we specify focusing on a particular point in your composition. The depth of field extends in front of and behind that point.

Not too surprisingly, many of you who are just learning your camera are not familiar with setting it up so that you control what the camera focuses on!

Left on its own at the default settings, with all focus points active, the camera is programmed to focus on the closest object it finds in the frame. This is not always where you want to focus.

You do have a way to select a specific focus point. As usual, how you do this differs from camera brand to camera brand (and sometimes model).

On all Canon SLRs that I’ve used this is done by pressing the far right button on the upper back of the body. Canon amazingly calls this the “AF Point Selection” button – mark the day, this may be the only time you find anything described that clearly!

You’ll need to half-press the shutter to activate the meter – to “wake up” the camera – first. When you press the AF point selection button you’ll see all focus points lighted in the viewfinder and on some models also displayed on the LCD screen. You then use the front control wheel to move through the focus points to select the one you want.

On Nikons, (sigh) it depends. On most models you go into the Menu, to AF Area Mode and select Single Point. Then use the Multi-Selector (up, down, right and left arrows on the back) to move the focus point to the desired position. (Note- some Canons allow you to do this as well as select with the front control wheel.) If this doesn’t work for your model it’s time to look in the manual.

For other brands, Sony seems to mostly follow Nikon’s arrangement, Pentax follows Canon’s and the others – well, this is again the time to “go to the book”. We’ve all agreed that the camera manual is not ideally read like a novel. But it is useful as a reference when you know what you’re looking for.

How many options of points you have will depend on the model camera you are using. Typically the higher-end (as in, more expensive) the model, the more points you’ll have available.

For most shooting it isn’t critical which one you select as you can still half-press to focus and then re-compose. I usually use the center point unless I know I’ll be regularly looking in a particular part of the frame. The idea is you now have control over where the camera focuses by placing that point on your subject.

Of course all of the above applies to SLRs. The many point & shoots, advanced digitals and now the mirror-less interchangeable-lens models all have their own language. Some point & shoots don’t have the option to select the focus point, others do. Pretty much all the advanced digitals and MIL models have it. Again you’ll want to see your manual for your particular model.

While there are always exceptions and for some types of fast-moving subjects having all focus points active can be desirable, for most day-to-day walk around photography I recommend always having a single focus point active, allowing you to put the focus exactly where you want it.

Hope this helps make things clearer. (Don’t you really miss my bad puns during the off season?) See you on the next Photo Walk!

– Stu Estler

www.premierphototours.com

 

After The Storm – In The Digital Age

Written by stuestler on August 28th, 2011

It’s late Sunday morning and all that’s left of Hurricane Irene here in Darnestown is a healthy breeze. I’m watching the edge of the cloud line and the blue sky beyond to the west continue to slip closer and closer.

Here in upper Mongomery County Maryland just northwest of Washington, DC we’ve weathered the shorn quite well a few branches down here and there and the obligatory power outage. Even that only lasted about eight hours, so maybe PEPCO really is doing a better job as promised. We’ll see how they do in the harder-hit areas.

No cable back yet so no distraction from the incessant draw of Internet on any of three computers.

Which gives me time to reflect on the difference eight years makes, since Hurricane Isabelle came through in 2003.

She came straight up the Bay so we felt the effects of hurricane winds even here. More damage, power out for five days. I have a well here, so no power=no well pump=no water. While those around me on city and county water complained about cold showers I longed for one.

Got kind of creative after a bit. Ran a garden hose over to my neighbor’s outdoor spigot (they on county water) hooked it up to my spigot and back-filled my water system from theirs. (if you’re ever tempted to try this be sure to shut the valve to your well first!)

The smell and taste of chlorine was never so exquisite!

This time, wiser and more experienced, I had 30 gallon-bottles of tap water in reserve, plus four 5-gallon buckets plus a full bathtub! Used all of one gallon bottle before the power came back on.

Technology was different then too. Eight years ago I had a totally film-based photography business. (I was one of the die-hards – got my first digital camera in January 2004)

No Internet presence then, no website and certainly no web-based business. So no power and no Internet just meant the inconvenience of no email for a few days

No smartphone either. Now here I am writing this entirely through the iPhone posting it and getting word out everywhere. May be a formatting glitch or two – we’ll see.

Yes I realize that’s old news to most of you, but it’s still a revelation considering the relatively brief span of time.

Well, the sun is out and the day becons. Hope all of you who were or still are in the path of the storm are well.

Had to cancel our Annapolis Photo Walk yesterday – hopefully all will be back to some semblance of normal for Tuesday’s Walk.

Quite the week here. Earthquakes, hurricane – what’s next, maybe asteroids? Stay well!

 

Learning to Truly See Through The Lens

Written by stuestler on March 12th, 2011

A student in an upcoming photo walk recently asked a great question – and it caused me to start thinking of introducing this idea early in the learning process, rather than save it for advanced classes.

She has a DX format SLR (1.5 crop factor from 35mm full frame), and she asked “should I just bring my 35mm f1.8 or do you think I should bring the 18-55mm kit lens too?”

Here is what I replied:

“Back in ‘the day’ when I started out learning photography (when you projected the image through the lens onto a rock and then chiseled it out on the stone) everyone began with a 35mm camera and a 50mm “standard” lens. The first thing we wanted was more lenses, and at that time (early 80’s) zooms were still “amateur” quality, and serious photographers used primes.

Zooms have improved now to the point where they’re the “standard” lens, and few people rely on a single prime lens for their shooting.

As a student, having the single focal length to use caused us to become more aware of the relationship of lens-to-subject, of composition; we learned to use the “two-step zoom” (you use your feet move closer to or farther from the subject). In my advance classes I give an assignment where the student must use just one focal length for all of their shots. It’s OK to use a zoom lens if that’s all they have, but they must choose a focal length and stay with it for the entire assignment.

It causes you to become much more attuned to your subject, more aware of composition and light, to think more creatively and explore the possibilities of framing and composition more fully. I believe some of that is lost with the availability of zoom lenses and the ease of changing focal length rather than working with the image and the subject.

So, if you’re up for it, I’d say use the 35mm, and if it’s convenient maybe bring the kit lens along just in case you’re really not happy with what’s going on with using the prime. “

So what lens do you shoot? Do you rely on the technology and availability of quality zoom lenses to just rack the focal length in and out to suit your preferences for the shot, or are you intimately aware of the relationship each focal length has in the perspective and point of view it produces with your subject

70mm Lens

Henri Cartier-Bresson, one of the best-known and well respected photographers of the 20th century is famous for using his M-Leica and 35mm lens for the majority of his photographs.  It’s not about the camera. It’s about the eye and the creative mind behind it.

Think about using just a single focal length lens – whether a prime, or just restricting yourself to a single focal length setting on your zoom. Become thoroughly familiar with all the possibilities and restrictions of that lens. Concentrate on making the best images possible with that focal length. Then, once you’ve become intimately accustomed to that view, choose another focal length, and do the same with it.

16mm Lens

It doesn’t have to be the “normal” 50mm or equivalent field of view. Some people are more comfortable seeing the world from a wide angle viewpoint, while others look for the close detail of a longer lens.

There’s no right and wrong answer here, and no single “ideal” focal length lens. But learning to truly understand the feel and possibilities of each will certainly improve your creative bag of tricks.