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Archive for April, 2011

Light, Science & Magic (Book Review)

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Light, Science & Magic

My professional reading list has moved from design to photography over the last year and one of the most influential books that I’ve had the pleasure of reading is Light, Science & Magic: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting (third edition) by Fil Hunter, Steven Biver and Paul Fuqua. This book is a step-by-step guide through the fundamentals of photographic lighting and the science of light with a focus on achievable small step exercises that will make you a better photographer.

I’ll step back there a few metres and say that again – it will make you a better photographer.

The reason I make that bold claim on a book of fundamental principles is that you do need to understand the science (and magic) that underpins what you do. The most valuable lesson I’ve learned in photography all year is this: photography is simply the study of light. It’s that simple. Photography is the study of how light responds when it interacts with a flat lens (as opposed to a rounded eye) and how refraction, reflection (family of angles), absorbtion and transmission (direct and diffuse; size of the light) affect the production of images in the form of photographs.

As somebody who generally likes to shoot natural light, this book has shifted the way my mind works out on the street and roaming through the Tasmanian countryside. At some point in making the photographs I’ll be thinking about the best place to get a certain shot and then it will occur to me there are other options because I’ve gained a small bridge of knowledge that leads away from the obvious. It has certainly narrowed the factor of chance in my work and improved my ability to walk along a crowded street and see an opportunity.

This is a short review because several chapters toward the end of Light, Science and Magic were a lot harder to work through than I’d appreciated at the beginning. This book is very much a work in progress for me as I am still not finished. So keep in mind this isn’t a one-time reading book but rather an instructive text that you’ll want to visit occasionally to understand light more intuitively. It doesn’t really matter where you take that knowledge about light – the street or the studio – it’s then about making great photography.

Blink (Book Review)

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

In some ways I found Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking a little dry on the back of my tongue. In part, this fell back to having read earlier Gladwell articles and to be truthful Blink wasn’t a new concept for me entering at page one. That familiarity with the concept added to the discomfort I felt when it came to reading the book over a few short sittings. However, don’t take that as meaning Blink is unworthy in any way, ill-authored or vacuous. Entirely the opposite. Malcolm Gladwell, as always, has an elegant way of dancing around a group of sub-stories to build out a compelling case for the average person to rethink their world. That is his true value as a creative non-fiction author (slash journalist).

Thin slicing is something we all do and it’s probably what saved our ancestors when the barest glint of a shadow warned of an ambush by predators. Humans are hard-wired to make snap decisions about all manner of subjects from the barest of information. This is a part of what it means to be human. So when we meet someone at a dance and decide we want to know them we’re thin-slicing – what other option do we have? When the police see somebody acting shifty and stop them for questioning – again, thin slicing. There are huge numbers of these precarious moments in our daily lives when it’s appropriate to make thin-slicing two-second-judgements about complex situations.

In Blink, Malcolm Gladwell reveals a series of examples to show how this thin-slicing by the subconscious acts as a two-second-judge-and-jury. His fundamental idea behind Blink is to explore when thin-slicing is appropriate and leads to superior outcomes versus those situations where complex investigation and thought are critical to achieve success. Understanding the difference can play an important role in our human effort to overcome personal biases and discrimination.

Ultimately, you don’t want to let a stranger into your home when that thin-slice is hammering at you because of their negative micro-expressions… but you do want to be thoroughly sure about other things like picking the best person for a job. Malcolm Gladwell points a finger squarely at businesses who need to review their hiring processes and rethink established methodologies for assessing the people they advance into upper management. Why are the majority of CEOs in Fortune 500 companies tall? Why is there a glass ceiling? How is Human Resource Management being performed within our organisations?

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Extra Questions to ask Web Designers

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

One major problem with web design is that for the most part clients find it difficult to conceptualise what we do and what final product we provide for them. On the surface, a web designer has some nice work and may be represented on portfolio gallery websites. But those portfolio sites may not be peer-awarded cutting edge contemporary best practice web design. So here are a few quick extra business questions I’d recommend thrown into the conversation before hiring anybody for the role:

  1. Do you have an ABN or ACN? What is your business structure – sole trader, partnership or company? And are you registered for GST?
  2. Are you insured (because you may damage my business or destroy my data or get me sued by a third party)?
  3. Who owns your business? How big is it? Where does the money go? It’s a fair question where money is involved.
  4. Are you a member of any professional associations, have you won awards, do you have client testimonials that I can verify?
  5. Is your business currently in financial difficulty? Again, it’s a fair question going into any financial contract.
  6. Do you have a lawyer? If so, can I have their contact details for my lawyer to discuss the contract?

These questions aren’t to piss anybody off or to bully service providers. They are the questions that will get the business owner / client over that hurdle of being stuck with a self-proclaimed award winning agency that turns out to be an uninsured, unregistered, unaccredited web designer. If you lose all of your data – what then? And if you get hacked & all your client lists are compromised and lawyers are beating down your door – what then? And if the taxman drags you in because the sums don’t add up – what then?

If you aren’t satisfied with any one of the answers to those six questions then walk away and consider the value of investment in a corporate firm that can protect your business interests while providing a professional web design service. There’s nothing worse than losing your own business because the other guy bullshitted their way in the door.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark (aka nortypig) and I live in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a photographer making pictures with film. A web developer for money. A business consultant for fun. A journalist on paper. Dreams of owning the World. Idea champion. Paradox. Life partner to Megan.

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