This year I have given a presentation to a few different ASMP chapters on Staying Relevant in the current photo industry. This presentation covers a wide variety of topics concerning the photography industry. Chiefly, it discusses how the industry has changed in the last decade and how photographers can cope with those changes. As with everything in life, the times they are a changing, and as the slide below shows, the advertising industry has undergone seismic shifts in how it reaches potential consumers in an age where most people go to great lengths to avoid advertisements. The rise of on-demand video has eliminated TV for many, and in doing so that has drastically reduced the number of people who see TV ads. The main question in advertising these days is “How do you advertise to people who don’t watch advertisements?”

The economy, at least here in the USA, is as strong as it has been in the last three decades as far as I can tell. But for professional photographers, the digital revolution has spawned massive changes in camera technology, distribution and publication, as well as how we market ourselves to potential clients. In effect, we are facing the same issues that large ad agencies are facing in trying to get our work in front of potential clients. The supply and demand curves have been going in the wrong direction for sometime now, i.e. huge supply and steady or slightly expanding demand. This puts pressure on all professional photographers to build buzz around their work and themselves. Honestly, this has always been the case. Forty years ago, the supply and demand curves were better for photographers but it was still hard to get noticed and even harder to get work.

 

What has really hurt individual photographers is the massive drop in pricing. If there was any doubt that photography was a commodity, that doubt has pretty much been erased. In the last decade, since the 2008 crash, pricing for photography in the advertising space has dropped anywhere from 60% to 90% depending on your genre. For direct stock licenses, if I can get 50% of what I used to get pre-2008, then I feel like I am doing pretty well. There has never been a time in the photography industry where pricing has been pushed downward this aggressively. With the supply and demand curves skewed heavily in favor of the client it isn’t surprising that pricing has taken a nose-dive. I have to say that giving this presentation, it is hard to stay positive. But when I think back to the early days of my career, and even a decade ago, I remember a lot of the older photographers bemoaning the end of the photo industry. Maybe it has always been that way. The industry is ever changing, just as every other industry is as well. The reality is that we as photographers and content creators have to keep adapting to the new way of doing things: social media, video, data driven advertising, and much, much more. Stagnation is the slow downhill ride. As never before, we as creators have to be creative and continue to come up with breathtaking work to advertise our services and satisfy the needs of our clients. And if you happen to have a million or more would be consumers in your back pocket (i.e. on Instagram) that doesn’t hurt either.

There are still many young photographers, just coming into the industry, that are thriving. They are hungry and they understand the new age of advertising to their peers. This is a natural cycle in the industry, and why it is so difficult to extend a career as a photographer past the twenty to thirty year mark. Photographers that have had a fifty or sixty year career in this industry, like Annie Leibovitz, Jay Maisel, Albert Watson, and a handful of others, is rare for a reason. How long can you keep working as hard as it takes in this industry to make a living? In my own genre, the adventure sports photography world, the current top adventure photographers have already extended the average length of a career considerably from the generation before–and this genre is really only fifty years old at most.

In short, the answer to how you stay relevant is easy. You work your ass off, create amazing work that is hard to replicate, and get creative in how you promote that work.

The talk obviously goes into much greater depth, and on a wide array of subjects, than this blog post allows for. I will continue to give the talk around the country – stay tuned to your local ASMP chapter to see if and when it will be coming to an area near you. 

  • Stan Kaady - Michael.

    Thanks so much for sharing your program, Staying Relevant with ASMP Atlanta. Great information.

    Best to you….Stan

The Summer 2018 issue of the Michael Clark Photography Newsletter is now available for download. If you’d like to sign up for the Newsletter just drop me an email and I’ll add you to the mailing list.

This issue includes an editorial about the award winning Lighting the Spirit project, a review of the new Elinchrom ELB 500 TTL battery-powered strobe, an article detailing my recent assignment for Method Seven sunglasses with the Patriots Jet Team, an editorial entitled The Changing Face of Advertising, and much more.

The Michael Clark Photography Newsletter goes out to over 8,000 thousand photo editors, photographers and photo enthusiasts around the world. You can download the Summer 2018 issue on my website at:

http://files.michaelclarkphoto.com/summer_2018.pdf

If you’d like to check out back issues of the newsletter they are available here.

Please note that the newsletter is best viewed in the latest Adobe Acrobat reader which is available for free at www.adobe.com.

  • Randy Lovelace - Michael,

    Please know that the work you put into these newsletters is so appreciated. You’ve mentioned before that you’re not sure wether it is worth the effort, but I have learned a lot from you and from these newsletters. Thank you for publishing them. Randy

Last night Nikon announced their long awaited mirrorless camera system, which now includes the Nikon Z7 and Z6 models. This announcement and the month long lead up of teasers from Nikon constitutes one of the biggest product launches in the history of the company. Rightly so, the internet seemed to explode with coverage of the launch both before it happened and especially afterwards. Nikon is to be commended for producing what seem to be two phenomenal mirrorless cameras. These first two mirrorless cameras put Nikon right into the mix with Sony for top-end, full-frame professional grade mirrorless options. This is probably one of the most exciting product announcements I have seen from Nikon is a long, long time.

At this point, I have not even laid eyes on the camera, much less shot with it, so I hope you have explored the other thousand web pages and videos out there from folks that have actually used the camera. When the Nikon D810 was announced I posted a similar blog post as this one with my thoughts on the new camera, and in this blog post I thought I would share my thoughts on the Nikon Z system just from looking at the specs. Of course, as I learned with the D810, the specs of any camera is only a small part of the shooting experience. Hence, take everything I say here with a grain of salt. I have a Nikon Z7 on order through B&H and will hopefully have a full review for you here in a couple of months.

Of course, as we have all seen, the mirrorless hype is at a fever pitch right now. Before I get into my thoughts here I want to say that no new camera will make you a better photographer. It might make your life easier, but it won’t change how you see the world and how you choose to create images. Faster autofocus might allow you to get sharper images of fast moving subjects than ever before but there have always been workarounds. Here, I hope to cut through some of the hype and talk about mirrorless cameras in general as well as these new Nikons. I have been shooting with Nikon cameras for more than 35 years now–since I was 14 years old. I love my Nikons and they have been my go to camera for my entire career. I am biased when it comes to cameras so there is no getting over that. In the last few years I have had many offers to switch brands and move towards mirrorless cameras from other manufacturers. I have tested out, quite extensively I might add, many of the mirrorless offerings from other manufacturers and considered how they might fit into my existing kit. In every case so far, I found that none of them really worked for me as well as my Nikon DSLRs. In some cases the autofocus wasn’t up to par, in other cases the smaller camera bodies just didn’t feel right and in every case my Nikon D850 offers supreme image quality and the best autofocus I have seen from any camera on the market.

The Nikon Z7, as seen below, looks to be a Nikon D850 in mirrorless form. Without even seeing the camera there are a few things I can tell right off the bat. The ergonomics looks great. I love that Nikon didn’t go too small, and put a real grip on this camera. That is critical for me personally. Time will tell just how good the ergonomics are. Compared to my Nikon D850, using the Z7 will be an easy transition. the button layout is very similar and the controls are well placed. Nikon knows that their pros need a consistent layout to effectively move over to a new camera and it seems they delivered on that front here.

On thing I have realized with all mirrorless cameras is that the dream of a lighter camera is only that–a dream. Sure, the Z7 and Z6 are about 30% lighter than the D850 (330 grams to be exact), but the lenses will pretty much be the same size when comparing f/2.8 versions. When you add in the extra batteries you will have to carry, that weight difference evaporates quickly. The only real way to save weight when it comes to mirrorless cameras, over DSLRs, is to step down to a smaller sensor, like with the Fuji, Panasonic and Olympus mirrorless cameras. But stepping down in sensor size comes with an image quality penalty that I am not willing to make at this point.

With the announcement of the Z7 and Z6, Nikon went to great lengths to communicate why they designed such a huge lens mount. Not only was that lens mount created to accommodate the 5-axis in-body image stabilization (IBIS) but it was also to allow for advanced lens designs, which they say will greatly improve image quality. The samples they offered up in the announcement seemed quite convincing but we will have to wait until more testing is done to see exactly what they mean. Nikon started out as a lens manufacturer, so they know a thing or two about lens designs. I have a feeling they have not gone to such great lengths without having done their homework.

Looking at the future lens line up that Nikon plans to create (see the lens road map below), it is obvious to me that Nikon is looking to create a mix of lenses; some of which are lighter, slower aperture lenses (f/1.8 or f/4) and also some stand-out, crazy-fast primes, like the Noct-Nikkor 58mm f/0.95. I am sure at some point they will add faster f/1.4 and f/1.2 primes to the line up because the Z mount allows for that but it is obvious that they are starting out with lenses that are both sharp and also lightweight to go along with the smaller, lighter camera body. I don’t necessarily have any comment on this, though the 58mm Noct-Nikkor is very exciting. The lens road map has some exciting lenses on it but I hope Nikon expands this massively and gets the big three f/2.8 zooms (14-24, 24-70, and 70-200) out on the market as soon as possible. Those are the workhorse lenses for most pros. A fast 24mm and 85mm is also a top priority for most pros.

The giant NIKKOR Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct-Nikkor will surely be an extremely expensive lens. Note that it is also a manual focus lens, which will lean hard on the focus peaking feature built into the Z7 and Z6 to be used effectively. At f/0.95 the depth of field is going to be ridiculously shallow–half the width of an eyelash. Not many folks will have a need for such an expensive and heavy beast but it sure is a wild lens to consider. I am guessing it will be quite popular for rental houses. The expensive nature of the f/0.95 Noct lens is probably why Nikon has a 50mm f/1.2 on their lens road map as well. 

The reality is that it will take years for Nikon to build out the S-line of lenses for the Z series cameras. In the mean time, the FTZ adapter (shown above) will allow any existing AF-S Nikkor lens to be used on the Z-series cameras with no penalty in AF speed or accuracy from what I am hearing online and from those photographers that have used it. That means there are a ton of lenses that can be used with the Z7 and Z6 right off the bat and all of my current F-mount Nikkor lenses can be used on both Nikon’s DSLRs as well as the Z series mirrorless cameras with equal performance. That is quite exciting and a huge deal for all Nikon photographers. The FTZ adapter also makes the Z-series camera system the most robust mirrorless system ever announced–at least up to this point–if indeed the adapter offers the same performance for my AF-S lenses on the new mirrorless cameras. And because of the huge lens mount, you can be guaranteed that a whole slew of adapters will be announced to allow third party lenses to be used on the Z-series cameras. At this point, we still don’t know how third party DSLR lenses (like those from Zeiss, Sigma and Tamron) will fair on the FTZ adapter but I would be surprised if they are compromised in any way.

The specs for both the Z7 and Z6 are pretty incredible — and importantly, they match up quite well to the Sony A7R III and A7 III. The pricing of the Z7 and Z6 also match up closely to the Sony cameras as well. The stand out specs for me are the new autofocus system with 493 AF points that cover 90% of the frame, the 45.7 MP sensors, the 5-axis IBIS stabilization, the smaller, lighter form factor and the fact that the FTZ adapter will allow my F-mount Nikons to perform just as they do on my D850. There is also a silent shooting mode, which I know for many is a very exciting feature. I don’t know that it is something I actually need but I am sure in some situations it will come in handy.

One of the sticking points for me with all mirrorless cameras, from any and all manufacturers, has always been the electronic viewfinder (EVF). I have yet to find one that I really want to look through all day while shooting. I have definitely found that I enjoy optical viewfinders much more than any EVF–including the supposedly amazing one in the Leica SL. This will certainly be a key aspect of the Z7 I want to look at. Several folks have already talked about how crisp and clear the Z7 viewfinder is, even though it is approximately the same resolution as the Sony A7R III EVF. I am guessing the lenses they put in front of that EVF make a big difference. Fingers crossed it is spectacular.

The new larger lens mount is also very exciting. I have no doubt that Nikon can take their Z lenses to a whole new level of optical quality and that will be very, very important if they hope to announce cameras with a resolution higher than 50 MP. I think they are setting themselves up to go well beyond 50 MP with the Z-series cameras. In order to handhold a 35mm digital camera that has 60-plus MP, the lenses will have to surpass any that Nikon currently makes and the 5-axis IBIS will also be mandatory to get sharp images handheld. I think this is the real reason that they went with the huge lens mount. The larger lens mount might also offer the option of slightly expanding the size of the sensor by a few millimeters each way to deal with noise issues that would be created by packing that many pixels onto a sensor. I have no idea if a slightly larger sensor was part of their thinking or not but it would make sense.

There are a few specs that left a lot of folks wanting with these new cameras. The biggest one is that that there is only one memory card slot. I applaud Nikon for using XQD cards as those are the best memory cards on the market by far in my opinion. But, most of us have gotten used to having two memory cards in the camera and writing images to both cards simultaneously. Many folks online have said that this is a deal breaker for them using these new Z-series cameras professionally. I am not sure I would go that far, but it is a curious decision on Nikon’s part. I would have rather seen two card slots and a slightly larger camera body than just the one card slot.

As a side note, my Hasselblad H5D-50c, which cost more than my car, only has one memory card slot and I certainly consider that a professional grade camera. I often shoot in the field with it and rarely shoot tethered. It doesn’t bother me that it only has one card slot. Also, when shooting fast-paced sports, like big wave surfing, I set up my D850 to only shoot to the XQD card because shooting to both cards would slow the camera down and fill up the buffer faster. I have not ever had an XQD card failure. The only memory card failure I have ever had was with SD cards. Hence if the Z7 only had one SD memory card slot then I might be a little worried, but with XQD it seems pretty solid.

Another issue for me is the frame rates. Sure, the Z7 can get up to 9 fps and the Z6 can get up to 12 fps but they both can only achieve those frame rates in 12-bit mode. In 14-bit mode, the Z7 is limited to 5.5 fps and the Z6 is limited to 9 fps. The buffers are also a bit limiting. It has been many years since I have shot in 12-bit mode and I have no plans to ever shoot in 12-bit again as it is a pretty significant difference in image quality when compared to 14-bit, especially when making prints. Hence, for my work, the Z7 might be an addition to my workhorse D850 but it would never take it’s place fully. As a side note here, the Sony offerings (A7R III and A9) suffer from this same issue. Their top-end fps ratings are all in 12-bit mode and are significantly slower when shooting in 14-bit. As far as frame rates go, I could care less about a 20 fps burst rate. That only adds to the crazy number of images shot and extends the editing time massively. If I can’t get the image I want with 9 to 11 fps then it isn’t the camera that is the issue.

One of the other oddities I found in the specs is that the flash sync speed has dropped to 1/200th second on both the Z6 and Z7, down from 1/250th second on most every other Nikon camera in recent memory. It isn’t a huge deal as most of use are using Hi-Sync (HS) or High Speed Sync (Has) strobes these days but it is a curious difference. Because of the IBIS stabilization, the 1/200th second flash sync speed doesn’t matter as much as it did on the D850.

Battery life is also a big issue for mirrorless cameras. The upside is that the Z-series cameras have a similar battery to the Nikon D850 batteries so you can use the ones you have. Also, the new EN-EL15b battery can be charged via USB, which is a great option. On the down side, it only gets 330 shots per charge but I have heard that a few folks online have gotten much better battery life than that so we’ll have to wait and see. Nikon has also announced a battery grip, which they will release here at some point. The grip will hold two additional batteries and triple the battery longevity. Sadly, it does not increase the frame rate in 14-bit mode as with the Nikon D850 battery grip.

For many, the video features of these new mirrorless cameras were the main spec they really wanted to see improved upon over the Nikon DSLR cameras. I think they will be quite satisfied as the video specs look pretty fantastic. Full frame 4K UHD footage, 4:2:0 output in camera and 4:2:2 10-bit output via HDMI to an external 4K recorder as well as what seems to be excellent autofocus during video recording. The Z6 might actually be the better of the two for video as it will have less noise and doesn’t use pixel binning when shooting full-frame. Otherwise, the video specs are pretty much the same on both cameras. I know some have said online that Nikon blew it by not offering a RAW video codec. That might be possible but the camera would surely suffer from overheating issues. There is a reason the Red Digital Cinema cameras are so huge and have giant slots for venting. There is also a new N-Log video codec that offers an even flatter picture profile than the “Flat” profile available in the menu. To access the N-Log profile you will have to use an external 4k recorder.

Below are a series of images of the Z7, showing it from various angles. The weather sealing (also shown below) is said to be on par with Nikon’s top-end DSLRs, which is a nice touch as well. All in all it is a smart looking camera with well-laid out controls.

Not only did Nikon announce their new mirrorless system but they also announced the AF-S Nikkor 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR lens that looks incredible! This is a phase fresnel lens that is considerably shorter and lighter than any of Nikon’s other super telephoto lenses. I have the 300mm PF lens that came out a few years ago and I love that lens. The 500mm version looks like the perfect surfing photography lens. This lens is only slightly larger than the Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom lens and it will cost one-third the price of the AF-S 500mm f/4 version. Add in that with the FTZ adapter, it will work perfectly with the new Nikon Z7 and Z6 cameras and you have one heck of a lightweight super telephoto lens option. For my work, this lens might be just as exciting as the announcement of the Z7!

In conclusion, the new Nikon Z7 and Z6 mirrorless cameras look pretty sweet. Nikon has pretty much hit it out of the park with all of their recent camera launches so I am sure these will be no different. They have come into the mirrorless market at a very high level–matching or exceeding what is already out there. For those adopting this camera I think the biggest differences will be the IBIS stabilization and the video features. I suppose the big questions are will I be adding one to my kit and do I see it replacing my D850s? I will have to use the Z7 before I will know if it is something I will add to my kit. As I said in the beginning, specs are only a small part of a cameras allure. At this point, I do not see the Z7 replacing either of my two D850 camera bodies. The main reason for this is the 14-bit high frame rate of the D850 (9 fps with the battery grip) compared to the slower 14-bit frame rate of the Z7 (5.5fps). If anything, I could see adding the Z7 to my existing kit and choosing it for those times when I want a slightly lighter, smaller camera to take into the field. I do believe that mirrorless is the future of photography and most if not all of us at some point will be working with mirrorless cameras, but we aren’t there yet. For most pros, it will be a long transition period. I am all about being on the cutting-edge of technology, but I also need gear that I can trust to deliver under pressure every time I head out the door.

Congratulations to Nikon on the launch of their new mirrorless system – and all of their new products! I hope to get my hands on one of these new cameras as soon as they are available. Stay tuned for a full review. For more info on the Nikon Z7 and Z6 head to the Nikon website.

  • David Shields - Thanks for your honest measured response to the latest Nikon release, i have so wanted to embrace mirrorless but like you have found them to be lacking in certain areas such as EVF, I also like to have a camera feel good to get hold of and balanced in the hands. I also did not want to get left behind in the mirrorless revolution and to be seen as a Luddite, not that that should matter but I do enjoy going out and taking pictures with any camera!

    I Will look out for your full review of these cameras in the future and will continue to enjoy and be inspired by the content and fantastic images you put out.

  • Randy Sarrow - Excellent write up Michael, makes me want to jump ship from Canon, but Canon is also gearing up to join the mirrorless party, late as usual however….Aloha

While looking through my bookshelf the other day I thought about how cool it would be to share with my readers those photographers whose work has inspired me and some of their books that are references I go back to time and time again. Hence, I thought I would start a new vein of blog posts (that I will add to regularly) where I share those books that have inspired me greatly over the years. Please note, that for everyone of these I post, I have contacted the photographer in question and have asked permission to post any images and/or book covers.

Early on in my career, I didn’t have the money to purchase photography books. Instead I would go through hundreds and hundreds of photographer’s websites. I still find a lot of inspiration online and on Instagram but I have to say there is nothing like holding a physical book in your hands, feeling the heavy paper stock and sitting with a book full of stellar images. If you can afford it, I highly recommend buying photography books that grab you. If you can’t afford to buy photo books, head to your local library.

For anyone paying attention to the photography space in the last few decades Dan Winters is a well-known photographer. He has worked for a wide variety of clients ranging from Vanity Fair to National Geographic to Wired Magazine in the editorial space and just about every Hollywood studio there is producing a wide range of movie posters. If you have ever opened up a copy of Wired Magazine in the last few decades then you have seen his work. He has inspired all of us, at all levels. I have heard other very well-known portrait photographers whisper his name and say things like “the god of lighting” when they speak of him. He is a photographer’s photographer, who wields incredibly skill, and he is an artist as well as a photographer. I was lucky enough to meet him briefly a few years back (as shown in the image above captured by photographer Steven St. John) when he did a book signing here in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In our twenty minute conversation, I realized a few things about Dan. He is not only a great photographer but from what I can tell he is a great human being. I know saying that after a short conversation might seem presumptuous but even so, you can tell a lot about a person from a conversation like that. He is also the best conversationalist I have ever met. He instantly put me at ease and engaged in the conversation sincerely. He was completely present. It isn’t often you meet people like that everyday, even people you know very well. Without further ado, let’s jump into Dan’s books that have inspired me.

The Road to Seeing: In his book The Road to Seeing, which I have spoken about before here on the blog, he is very open about his process and what it took to create the images contained in the book. In this book he also lays out his entire career path, which is fascinating to read about. I never knew about his fascination with model building, but it makes total sense, and helps to explain how he can build such elaborate sets and props for his images. His focus on each and every shoot is very apparent in the book as well – as the quote below indicates.

“I make it a habit to approach every picture as if it were my last” – Dan Winters, The Road to Seeing

This book is a gorgeous. It will make every photographer jealous. I say that as a high complement of the layout and design as well as for the images. If you love photography, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of The Road to Seeing. I am pretty sure you will enjoy it just as much as I did. I couldn’t put it down once I started reading it – and there are very few photography related books that fall into that category. It is much more than a fine art photography book as there are hundreds of pages of stories sharing what was going on behind the scenes as well as essays about his path as a photographer and how he sees the craft.

Last Launch: All of Dan’s books are incredibly inspiring, but I have to say that Last Launch is my favorite of his fine art photography books. This is because I am a total space geek and really wanted to be an astronaut. When I was young, I could list off all of the Space Shuttle missions and tell what happened on each one. I was fascinated by space travel and the Universe in general, which is why I got a degree in Physics. Last Launch was Dan’s personal project to document the last launch of the Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavor Space Shuttles. The images in this book not only show the launches with Dan’s signature look, which I might add is quite different than normal launch images–and much more compelling, but also includes detailed images of the shuttle, the shuttle cockpit and the gear involved in launching into space.

Periodical Photographs: In his first book, Periodical Photographs, Dan provides an overview of his editorial work photographing a wide variety of top celebrities. In my view, if you want to see some of the best portraiture being produced in the modern age of photography then this book is a must see. It is out of print but you can still find used copies, though these come at a high price. On Amazon the least expensive used copy right now goes for $182.33. A new copy starts at $515.40! That should tell you about the quality of this book and the importance of the images that reside within. Highly recommended.

America: Icons and Ingenuity: In America: Icons and Ingenuity, we see a compendium of Dan’s work that includes images from Last Launch, Periodical Photographs and The Road to Seeing as well as a few new images. If you are new to Dan’s work and want to get one book that shows a wide range of his images then this is the one to get. America also contains several of his works on paper, his close-up images of Honeybees as well black and white images.

All four of the books listed above are quite different and each deserve a decent amount of time to digest. Dan also has another book, which I haven’t even seen: The Grey Ghost: New York City Photographs. This book contains images of New York City captured in the early part of Dan’s career when he lived in NYC. I will definitely check it out the next time I am down at the Photo-Eye bookstore here in Santa Fe. 

As you might be able to tell, Dan’s work really resonates with me. I am a huge fan. I tried not to gush too much, but it is hard not too. As someone who has been an artist (from very early on) and has lived a life filled with creativity I can see the artistic sensibility in all of his images. If his work inspires you, check out his website at www.danwintersphoto.com and also pick up a few of his books.

Thanks for the inspiration Dan and for allowing me to post this blog with your images. I look forward to seeing where you go next.

Disclaimer: I am sponsored by Elinchrom and have worked with them for over 12 years now. This product was sent to me to try out. I am a big fan of their products as they work exceedingly well for my work. They are also tough enough to withstand the torture I dish out. This isn’t necessarily an in-depth review as there isn’t much to review other than it works perfectly. 

Last week Elinchrom announced the ELB 1200 Dock. The ELB 1200 strobe kit is already an incredibly powerful, lightweight and versatile 1200 Ws battery-powered strobe but with the addition of the Dock, Elinchrom has made it much more versatile so you can have one lighting solution that works both in the studio or out on location. Having known that the Dock was coming for a while, I asked if I could get one to work with in my Cutting-Edge Lighting workshop, which happened this past week at the Santa Fe Workshops. During the workshop, we spent two days in the studio and two days on location. In the studio I used the dock for a demonstration and out in the field we used the ELB 1200 Air batteries. The dock made for seamless integration in the studio and allowed us to use the modeling lamp for hours without worrying about battery power.

The dock snaps on to the bottom of the ELB 1200 in the same way that the batteries attach so it is easy to swap out the battery for the dock. When using the dock, you get the same level of performance as with the battery. The recycle times are pretty much the same as with the battery. I know the Elinchrom website says the pack recycles 0.1 seconds slower at full power with the Dock connected but I honestly couldn’t tell any difference. Even with the dock attached the power pack is still relatively lightweight at 11 lbs (5 Kg), especially compared to other studio power packs.

During my demo for the class, we used one ELB 1200 with the modeling light on as a continuous light source (that did not fire) and another ELB 1200 in Strobo mode with an Action head. As you can see below, we were able to experiment quite a bit and get fairly creative with Deollo Johnson, a good friend and a very talented martial artist.

There isn’t much to say about the new dock aside from the obvious fact that it works great and does exactly what you would expect. For those that already own the ELB 1200, note that you will have to update your firmware on the ELB 1200 pack so that it will work with the new dock. Other than that, snap it on, flip the switch and you are in business. The dock has a fan to keep things cool, but I never even heard it while using it for nearly three hours on a relatively hot day. All in all, this is a great addition to the ELB 1200. I will definitely be adding a few of these docks to my strobe kit.

My thanks to Elinchrom for shipping me the dock to use in the workshop this past week and for letting me try it out before it was announced. The dock is another home run for Elinchrom.

It is wild to think back to 2014 and 2015, when Céline Cousteau gathered a team of adventurers, myself included, to head into an extremely remote section of the Amazon to document the issues indigenous tribes are facing. Over the course of those two excursions, approximately five weeks time in all, the crew captured the footage for this forthcoming movie under some intense conditions. Those two trips were some of the hardest, most dangerous expeditions I have ever been on – and that is saying something coming from an adventure photographer.

I have been sitting on the best images from that expedition for over three years now and they will be released along with the film here at some point later this year. I did write an article about the first expedition in my Summer 2014 Newsletter, but other than that the best images have still been held under wraps along with the film. I can’t wait to show them to the world. Now, in an effort to finish off the very last bits of the film, Céline has launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the Animation and Music for the film as well as fund an impact campaign for the tribes.

From Céline’s Kickstarter email:

Tribes on the Edge tells the story of these rainforest guardians whose survival, diminished by multiple threats, is symbolic of our own human survival. In the Vale do Javari, where the largest concentration of uncontacted tribes in the entire Amazon lives, the importance of protecting people and the environment is even more crucial as they are most vulnerable.

The film not only allows us to share the story of the indigenous peoples of the Vale do Javari — it is a catalyst for advocacy and action.

The Kickstarter campaign funding will be used to put the finishing touches on the Tribes on the Edge film and to create an impact strategy meeting in the Amazon with indigenous leaders and NGOs.

The Tribes on the Edge documentary is more than 90% complete and the impact campaign is gaining momentum. This Kickstarter campaign will not only help us finish the documentary, it will also allow us to make a journey to the Amazon and work hand in hand with the very people we are working for. During this trip, we will propose researched projects, present possible NGO partners, and align with the Indigenous Peoples of the Javari to create an impact strategy that will be led and governed by the tribes themselves. This expedition will also allow us to screen the film for them.

If we can reach 30% of our goal on Kickstarter in the first week, we’ve been advised this will greatly increase our chances of achieving our funding goal. It helps us catch the eye of Kickstarter and visitors to the site and gives us an opportunity to be featured on their front page. This could give us twice as much exposure, so it’s akin to doubling your donation when you join us at the onset of this effort!

The old saying goes “be the change you want to see in the world,” and we want you to be that change with us! Your help could be the decisive factor in our efforts to support the indigenous peoples of the Javari and the natural wonder they call home – the Amazon!

Check out our brand new website click here.
Watch my latest interview about TOTE that just aired on WABC-TV click here.
And of course please join us on our Kickstarter page.

Please, if you are so inclined, click on the multiple links above to learn more about the project and to donate to the Kickstarter campaign. There is much more to come on this grand adventure and worthy campaign to tell the stories of the tribes and also help them direct their own future!

I realize this blog post isn’t going to be that exciting–or that popular. Not many photographers these days actually print their images anymore. It is often said that there will be a giant hole in the photographic record from the last ten or fifteen years because images rarely make it off the hard drives and onto a piece of paper. Ink and paper is still the most archival storage format on the planet. But besides this fact, when you kick the bucket, who is going to dig through your hard drives to pull out those epic, once in a lifetime images and save them for the world to consider twenty, sixty, or a hundred years from now? If you want to make sure your work can stand the test of time, then making prints of your images is the only sure fire way they will be remembered a century or more from now. Here in this blog post, I want to detail an additional back up of sorts, this one being physical prints.

I realize that any photographer that starts talking about “legacy” or how “they will be remembered” is probably getting on in age. I am not a spring chicken anymore, but I still have another few decades in front of me in terms of my career — or at least I hope that is the case. As an adventure sports photographer I have used up seven of my nine lives already. I didn’t expect to live past forty years old, but here I am. I have nearly bit the dust so many times that I don’t really know how or when that time will come. Hence, that is why this article is coming out now and not twenty years from now. The other issue is that I have so many images I want to print, and preserve, that doing so off and on as I create them is a lot easier than trying to print three copies of five hundred images in the future.

I have previously detailed how I back up my digital archive of images here on the blog in a post titled, Storage and Archiving Digital Workflow. That blog post detailed how I back up my digital content on a variety of hard drives and RAID arrays so that I have access to all my images and also protect then from being lost when hard drives fail. My digital archive is extremely well organized and all of my images have metadata and caption info embedded in them but the reality is there are still half a million images in my digital archive. That is a lot of images to go through.

For the last few months, I have been making large 17×22-inch prints of all my best images. Why am I doing this? It is a matter of creating a record of my images that is easily stored and will last far longer than any hard drive ever will. According to Wilhelm Imaging Research, my prints should, if they are stored correctly, last upwards of 200 years. It might seem tedious to make prints of your best images and put them into dark storage, but it is not really that hard.

I am generating these prints using my trusty Epson 3880 ink jet printer with my favorite paper, Ilford’s Gold Fibre Silk. I have chosen Ilford Gold Fibre Silk because it has spectacular longevity, and it also reproduces my images beautifully. I chose the 17×22-inch size because it is the largest flat sheet that Ilford produces for this particular paper. I could certainly print larger images on my larger Epson 9880 but storing images printed on rolled paper is much more difficult, and making hundreds of prints larger than 17×22-inches would be quite expensive. Printing my images on 17×22-inch paper is not inexpensive by any means. I figure between ink, paper and several archival boxes to store them in it is around $8 to $9 USD per print. I am also making two to three prints of each image. I am making three copies of my very best images and two copies of my second tier images. To store the prints, I have found the Archival Methods Museum Drop Front boxes (shown above and below) to be the sturdiest and most archival option available. So far, I have just been laying the raw prints on top of one another in the archival museum boxes. This seems to work well since the paper is only printable on one side.

In all, I am looking at printing multiple copies of between 200 and 300 images. That means somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 to 700 final prints. Making that many 17×22-inch print obviously is not cheap. In terms of total cost, if I make three copies of 50 images, and two copies of an additional 200 images, that comes out to around $4,400 USD in printing costs. I could certainly make it less costly by choosing a less expensive paper and/or choosing a smaller paper size, say 13×19-inch sheets instead of 17×22-inch sheets. Doing the printing piecemeal also helps to spread out those costs so I don’t have to absorb it all at once. Heck, making 250 prints is going to take some time so I am making a few dozen prints a week as I have time between assignments.

Having multiple printers here in my office, and living in a dry and dusty climate like New Mexico, I already have to make at least one 8.5×11-inch print each week on both printers just to keep the ink flowing. If I let those printer sit for three or more months at the very least I will have to spend some serious money on ink to get them working again. Hence, making several 17×22-inch prints each week also helps keep my printers working.

I thought I would put up this blog post to show what I am working on in the background right now. In this digital age, I have to say making a print is still a marvelous thing. Every time a new print rolls out of the printer it gives me a new perspective on the image — and a new appreciation for how beautiful prints of images really are. If you are interested in purchasing a print, please check out my print pricing on my website here and send me an email at info@michaelclarkphoto.com to get the process rolling.

  • Anthony Kearney - Hi Michael,

    Why do you print with a large border as opposed to fully borderless prints?
    Is it for handling purposes?
    Thanks.

  • Michael Clark - Anthony – Indeed, I print with a one inch border just for handling. I could print closer to the edge but it would only add another inch or so. The 17×22 inch paper is ideal for 6×4.5 medium format aspect ratios, not so great for the 2×3 aspect ratio that most DSLRs use. I also use cotton gloves to handle each piece of paper the whole way through so no oils from my skin contaminate the paper. That just helps it last longer.

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