Birthdays, Heresies and Watt-Seconds

Strobist turned two this weekend. And while I will admit that it is not yet completely potty trained, now is as good a time as any to announce some upcoming changes.

What to expect in the coming year, after the jump.

Looking Forward

In upcoming weeks you will no doubt notice some changes. They will be welcomed by some, and poo-poo'd others.

This site started out in 2006 as a small trail of bread crumbs for photojournalism students and young pros on how to use their shoe-mount flashes a little bit better. It was designed to fill the gap between what they taught us about light in PJ school, and what we needed to know in the real world.

But over the last two years it grew into something way bigger than that. It became a place where people gather to learn about light. And believe me, I have learned more in that time than any of you have.

Given that we have spent two years digging very deeply into what kind be done with a small kit of speedlights, there is a growing danger that the site will just become a circular, self-derivative discussion. And since excessive inbreeding (especially the intellectual kind) never did anyone much good, it is time to shake things up a little.

Starting in year three, we will be expanding our coverage area into all kinds of off-camera flashes to see what we can learn form the photographers who use them.

(What the...?)

Why? Three reasons:

First and foremost, the beauty of learning to use your speedlights in manual mode means that every single skill you acquire is translatable to the larger strobes. That's such a cool thing, not to having to learn a whole new skill set just because you are moving to a larger powered light. And many of you are making (or have already made) that leap.

(That alone is reason to expand your speedlight abilities beyond TTL systems such as CLS and eTTL.)

Second, the vast majority of what is being done with big strobes today is translatable down to speedlights. And easily so, since you understand the 1/1-, 1/2-, 1/4-power thing. And as such, it is crazy nuts not to take a close look at those guys and see what we can learn from them.

Third, if you want to improve your game in any arena you really need to learn to look beyond the genre in which you are operating.

Here's how I thought while I was at The Sun shooting with light for a newspaper:

Say for the sake of argument that I was operating on a theoretical level of, oh, 20 on a scale of 1-100. Say the hot shots at the bigger papers were shooting in the 40's on the same scale. If I merely looked at what the other newspaper guys were doing, tried to learn from them, and partially succeeded, I might end up in the 30's. If I were lucky.

But if I looked at the very best people in the photo world, the 90th-percentile guys, learned from them and still failed to totally get it, I might end up in the 50s' or 60's. Kinda weird, granted. But that is the way I always thought.

So from here on out, I am going to make a concerted effort to expose you to some of the hot shots in the business in the form of reverse engineering exercises and "guest" On Assignments.

I don't care if they are using speedlights, Profotos or magnesium powder. Light is light. And we may as well be learning from the folks who are working at the highest levels.

If you have any particular favorites, leave me a URL in the comments. I cannot promise I can get them, but I can promise to look into each suggestion.

I will be translating the big lights down to speedlight-speak wherever possible. Because that is where most of us are working. Look for the first one in that series to appear later this week.

Speaking of shooting and "On Assignments," that is what you most requested on the last reader feedback post, so that is going to be given a higher priority. I want this site to be the place for the next-gen folks to learn about light that us older farts never had.

If you are a high-end pro and you are reading this site, I will very likely be hitting you up for a chance to pay your early mentors back. Or, more accurately, pay them forward. I cannot promise you riches. But I can promise you some serious, industry-wide traffic to your site. And I can also teach you what I have learned about search engine optimization for shooters.

And, as I have officially gotten bored silly with not being a regular shooter after eight months, I am back in the saddle. I will be shooting some jobs for The Sun (call me, Chuck) and would be very happy to be in the rolodex of any of you dear readers' various publications.

To that end, I have put some photos into my Zenfolio page, with appropriate contact info for possible location people jobs in the Baltimore, MD, area.

So if you are reading this from your scanning station (or, better yet, at the picture desk) of an editorial publication, I would be much obliged if you would take a moment to enter me into your system of stringers as Your Man in Baltimore. Of leave a note on the appropriate colleague's desk.

Having been a kept, in-house shooter for 20 years, this photographic dating stuff will be new to me at first. So I am going to be jotting down my "lessons learned" in the occasional OT post in the hopes that it might be helpful to some of you in similar positions.

I also have started work on what I think is a very special self-generated project. There will be more on that, soon. So between those two shooting venues, my OA's will be coming back, too.

And speaking of OA's, remember the Old Masters post from late last year? We are gonna be using those guys as a way to sharpen our reverse-engineering skills while we get our culture on. After all, they were the first quality reverse engineers of light. In short, look forward to some interviews with some dead guys in the mix. They have good stuff to teach us.

If that's not enough, we still have two sections of Lighting 102 to finish up. And then we'll be doing regular, real-world assignments as a group. I might be able up the ante a little to make it more interesting. I have a few ideas.

And finally, for those of you who are interested, some stats from the year that was:

Over the past year ending April 5th, 2008, there were 503 posts, which received a total of 14,540,459 page views from 1,493,505 different readers from 208 different countries/territories. Heck, we even had one visitor from Antartica who read 8 posts over a span of 21 minutes.

Thanks for a wonderful year, and I am very much looking forward to learning along with you during the next.


(Handy flash photo at top by Ecatoncheires)


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