Friday, May 27, 2016

Life / Job / Family

[I was first ready to post this 2 weeks ago, but I've been putting it off. The opening line change from "earlier this week," to "last week," to now "a few weeks ago." But I finally decided I should post this. So here it goes.]

A few weeks ago, I got this e-mail from the University of Minnesota:

Thank you for your application for the position of Assistant Professor of Photography at the University of Minnesota. I am writing to let you know the search has been closed and the position was not filled.

I assumed I didn't get the job a while back, because I applied 6 months ago. I would have been a good fit, and I thought I had a fighting chance based on my 70 or so college courses that I've taught. But this is extra depressing because the position is still open. I would be 100% OK with a letter that basically said "you didn't get the job because we found someone better," but a letter that says "you MAY have been the best, but even you're not good enough for us" is more disheartening.

This would have been quite close to my dream job. It was a tenured track position at a great institution. My old position at the College of Visual Arts (CVA) before it shut down 3 years ago was also quite close to my dream job: I was teaching 6 classes/year (between the Photo and the Foundation Departments) and I was managing the darkrooms (a B&W lab, color lab, alternative processes lab, digital darkroom, photo studio, and a check-out window open 60 hours/week).

After CVA closed down, I applied for a "tech" position at another local art college that would have been horrible hours for our family: afternoons and evenings 4 days/week, no summers off, with basically the same pay I'm getting now at Hamline working 2 days a week for two 16-week semesters each year. (I applied for this before I was offered my current position where I'm teaching all the photo classes offered at Hamline.) In the end, it was a very good thing that I did NOT get that tech position. I wouldn't be happy NOT teaching and working much longer hours for similar pay. And my family would have suffered.

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But the fact of the matter is that I'm quite happy teaching 3 classes/year as an adjunct faculty at Hamline University, which is what I'm currently doing. It's only 2 days/week, and it has crappy (standard) adjunct pay. But it suits our family well right now. The other 3 days/week I'm home with my 2 young boys, and I have all summer with them, along with 6 weeks around Christmas. I get to "get out of the house" and nurture my love for teaching, but it's far from the stress of a full-time position.

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Last fall, my wife and I were at a friend's wedding where we saw (and sat with) a lot of old familiar faces from CVA, and I was asked about looking for a full time position. I said I was looking, but that there's only so many full time photography positions in the Cities. My wife interjected in a way I didn't quite expect. She said something like "We don't need him working full-time. I really like that he's home a lot more with the boys. It keeps a lot of my stress down. We've got a good thing going right now, and I wouldn't mind keeping it that way!"

Her comments were sweet, and they forced me to step back and think.

Do I WANT a full time position? Well... yes... but I also love being able to stay home with my boys much more than most dads.

Does my family need me to be working full-time? Heck no. My wife is currently making about 10x as much as me, and we're getting by just fine. Sure, we would have probably traveled more in the last 3 years had I still been working full-time, but we are far from suffering.

I came to realize 2 things (that - I'm ashamed to admit - are both ego related):

ONE: I wanted a full-time position so that I'd have the TITLE of having a full-time job. It's more prestigious than being "just" an adjunct. It was a little harder than I thought it would be to go back to being an adjunct after being full-time.

TWO: Something feels really lame about being a part-time stay-at-home dad. But that doesn't mean I SHOULDN'T be a stay-at-home dad. It's just more accepted to be a stay-at-home mom. Dads need to work. Dads need to provide. I know it's 2016, but I'm still worried about what other people think of our situation. And I need to stop that.

I loved my full-time position at CVA, and I'd love to be full-time at another college/university again in the future. But maybe right now isn't the best time. My little guy just turned 2, and life is so much easier when I can schedule things like doctor's appointments, speech therapy, outings to Grandma's house, etc, etc, on the days I'm home with the boys. Not to mention that I get to be a lot more present with them than most parents get to be. We're very lucky.

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Here's my (obvious) fear. Right now, my current balance of teaching time and family time is excellent. But once the boys are both in elementary school, there's no good reason for me to be home as much. Teaching positions don't just drop out of the sky, so I need to keep my eyes open for good opportunities and jump on them even if it might be a little premature (like this position that didn't work out for me at the University - ideally, that'd come back around in 4 years or so).

And yes, I'm aware this struggle isn't specific for me. This is what every stay-at-home parent who wants to have a life/job outside of the house has gone through as his/her kids have gotten older. It's not a new struggle. It's just new to me.

In the meantime, things are pretty good the way they are. You can follow along on my adventures with the boys on Instagram. Our summer is already filling up with lots of big plans. Life is grand.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Finalizing my Piece for the Upcoming 'Center for Fine Art Photography' Exhibition

I spent some time in my studio this weekend getting my large 4 a.m. piece ready to ship to Colorado. Here are a few pics of the process:


Print on the table, mat board leaning up, frame and plexi in the foreground.


Signed print.


Ready to put on the D-rings and wire.


Complete.


That last photo didn't show the scale of the 31x41 piece that well. Here's a shot my wife took
of me holding the piece, and it lets you get a bit more of the sense of the scale.


I wrapped it in butcher paper, and then loosely "boxed" it in foamcore
to then take to UPS and have them box and ship it.

p.s. Here's a post from March that shows the process of making the frame for this exhibition (as well as 3 more frames).

Thursday, May 12, 2016

DMA Exhibition & Fine Arts Open House at Hamline

The Digital Media Arts Department (DMA) at Hamline University will be showcasing the work done by the seniors in an exhibition this upcoming Monday. There will also be open houses in the Fine Arts studios. Here are the posters that just went up around campus:






On the door of my Digital Photography classroom.

Monday, May 09, 2016

No Spring "F-Stop Swap"

I got that familiar yellow post card in the mail over the weekend that announces the next "F-Stop Swap." But this one had some bad news. The spring swap is cancelled:



I hope his wife feels better soon! I guess I'll be at the next swap in October (the weekend of the 22nd). Just wanted to pass this along in case you hadn't heard.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

11 Stupid Things Photographers Say

I recently came across this post by photographer Michael Corneau where he rants about photographers and their gear. I don't 100% agree with ALL of this, but here's his post "The 11 Stupidest Things Photographers Say About Gear."


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I’m like a lot of photographers.

I want to shoot more often.

And 1 big reason I don’t shoot as much as I like is that I waste too much time reading about gear.

Now I’ve been shooting since 2008.

And that means I’ve been reading about photo equipment for 8 years.

That’s not an eternity.

But it’s long enough to realize that when it comes to cameras and lenses, photographers have a bad habit of making dramatic statements that have zero basis in reality.

Here are my 11 favorites:


11) Any Sentence Including “Microcontrast” or “3D Pop” or “Medium Format Look.”

What happened to the word sharp?

Because it seems like there’s a new breed of photographer that seems hell-bent on sounding like a lens company marketing department.

Whenever I hear pseudo-science mumbo jumbo like “microcontrast”, I think of a photographer trying a little too hard to justify a $3,000+ lens purchase.

Listen, these days it’s pretty hard to buy a bad lens, no matter how much — or how little — money you’re spending.

So that fancy lens you want?

If you can afford it, just get it. You’ll probably like it.

And oh yeah, the only way to get the “medium format look” is to use a MEDIUM FORMAT CAMERA AND LENS.

End of story.


10) I Prefer the Nikon Look

My favorite gear article ever is Fstoppers’ blind test of the Nikon D810, Canon 5DSR, and Sony A7R II.

They shot an identical picture with all 3 cameras, and people could not guess which camera took which picture.

The idea that we can clearly discern one camera brand from another is all in our heads.

Image quality has been solved. You couldn’t buy a bad camera if you tried these days.

Where brands really differentiate themselves these days is ergonomics, RAW file flexibility, size/weight, lens selection, and customer service.

Focus on that, NOT some silly idea of getting the “Brand X Look.”


9) OMG That Lens Has the Best Bokeh!

I don’t understand photographers’ obsession with the rendering of out-of-focus areas.

Look at any photo on this site that has a shallow depth of field.

If you’re more interested in what’s out of focus than the subject, then to me, the picture is a failure.

Strong subjects overcome ‘bad’ or ‘distracting’ bokeh any day of the week.

End of story.

Not convinced?

Well, can you find a great picture that would be bad if it had different bokeh?

And can you find a bad picture that would be made great if it had different bokeh?

I sure can’t.


8) The “Legendary” Brand X 85mm Lens

There are no legendary cameras or lenses.

There are only legendary photographers who make legendary pictures. And very few of those legendary pictures that specifically required certain equipment.

For example, Steve McCurry shot his famous Afgan Girl picture with a Nikon FM2 and 105mm f/2.5 AIS lens.

Steve’s an amazing photographer.

He could have made do with a Canon or Olympus or Pentax or Leica or anything else.


7) My Camera Is Outdated!

In photography, 99.9% of the time, newer is better.

But any equipment that still functions as intended is not outdated.

I have a Canon 5D. Yes, the original one from 2005.

And Canon’s about to announce the 5D Mark IV, and it’s going to be way better than my old 5D.

But you know what?

My 5D still powers on just fine and is 100% functional.

So it’s not outdated.


6) I’m Afraid My Gear Will Get Wet/Broken/Peed on.

Stop treating your camera like it’s a newborn baby.

If you take reasonable, common-sense precautions, your gear’s going to be perfectly safe 99.999% of the time.

Keep your camera protected in the rain or snow.

Stay off railroad tracks.

And don’t show off your expensive new gear in unfamiliar places.

But cameras were made to be used. And if you’re not going to them in less-than-perfect conditions — when good pictures tend to happen — why own them at all?

And if you’re not going to them in less-than-perfect conditions — when good pictures tend to happen — why even own a camera?


5) My Family Will Be So Happy I’m Bringing All This Gear on Our Vacation!

Here’s a surefire way to ruin your family vacation: bring a huge photo backpack with 2 cameras, 9 lenses, and a gigantic tripod.

I live in New York City, which is jam-packed full of camera-wielding tourists.

Almost every day, I see families sitting around waiting for Daddy (yes, it’s always Daddy) to finish fiddling with all his photo gear.

And they never look happy.

Listen, your family is not signing up for to follow you on your photo safari.

They just want to enjoy themselves.

So at most, bring a camera and 2 lenses. You don’t need anything else.


4) F/4 Is the Sweet Spot of This Lens!

I’ve never understood the idea of shooting at a lens’ sweet spot.

I love my Sony 35mm f/2.8 lens.

And let’s say the MTF curves and the lab tests and all that say it’s sharpest at f/8.

That piece of information is 100% useless.

Unless you’re making truly massive prints and need maximum sharpness (99.9% of us don’t), your Aperture should be a reflection of the amount of light in the scene and/or your desired depth of field.

Period.


3) I Just Downloaded the Lightroom/Photoshop/Capture One/Apple OS/X Update That Came Out Today!

I don’t have many strong opinions on software, but I’ll tell you this: NEVER download a new update when it’s first released.

This is not a knock on Adobe, Phase One, Apple, or any other software developers.

But with software getting more and more complex, it’s impossible to test every possible configuration and setup.

So every so often, that means we have to deal with bugs.

But you can make things easy on yourself by letting your friends be the beta testers.


2) I Hate When People Say “Your Pictures Are Great, You Must Have a Great Camera!”

I translate this statement as “I need to hear that I’m a great photographer.”

The reason real people (as in non-photographers) say things like “your pictures are great, you must have a great camera” is because they don’t know anything about photography and want to make conversation.

So please stop the phony outrage and accept statements like this for what they are: people just trying to be polite.

They’re talking about the tools because it’s an obvious point of conversation.

And besides, how many times have you Googled “what camera does photographer Joe Schmoe use?”

Because when you think about it, that’s basically saying “Joe Schmoe’s pictures are great. He must have a great camera!”

And finally…


1) I Don’t Care About Gear!

Listen.

I tell myself all the time that I’m not obsessed with gear.

And it’s total BS.

I troll Craig’s List for deals every single day, even for stuff I don’t need.

I’m always thinking about whether I should buy the new Sony A7R II, even though my A7 II perfectly suits my needs 99% of the time.

Let’s just admit the truth — we all want new toys, whether it’s a Nikon D5 or a Hasselblad or a $20 film point & shoot.


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My 2 cents: (like I'm important or something...)

- I've never been around someone pretentious enough to say #11. Thankfully.
- Totally agree with #10.
- I agree with his argument in #9, but my understanding is that some lenses DO have different qualities of bokeh.
- Agree with #8, #7, and #6; I'm quite gentle with my equipment, but I'll take it out and use it in a firestorm if need-be.
- I've been "the guy" in #5. But I'm trying to be better.
- Again, with #4, I agree with his reasoning, but there ARE spots where different lenses work better.
- 100000000% agree with #3 and #2.
- And actually, I'm totally the person who he says doesn't exist in #1. I don't search Craigslist for deals. I'm not secretly a "gear guy." I use what I have, and I update it when I need to. And that's the end of it. So I guess his final point (and his intro) goes out the window on account of me. (But I guess his last line about always wanting new toys is true for me, but I don't search for any of it.)

Anyway, his article had some entertaining and interesting points overall. Hope you liked it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Calvin and Hobbes on Inspiration

This describes 80% of my students right now:



Saturday, April 23, 2016

Do I "Know About Photos?"

A former student was asked this about me on LinkedIn recently, and she posted a screenshot to Facebook:



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