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One Heck Of A Ride (Texas Music Documentary, Episode 6)

Every artist is different. Their measures of success, their methods for achieving it, they all have their process of how they're trying to make it to cross over from the masses and into notoriety.

 

They've got an open mic and it's two songs per songwriter. JJ's in Denton, Texas has an R&B one some night of the week, and I wouldn't be surprised if there's more. There's a lot of singer songwriters around here, especially with the music school.

 

From open mic nights in coffee houses to college campuses, to street corners, music is luring out its next hopefuls and every one of them will take their own unique journey. Some will make it, some won't, some will never quit no matter where the journey takes them.

 

There's some of those guys that would just do this no matter what. There are guys who have cost themselves any kind of job, usually a wife.

 

I understand it from your partner's side as to where the money situation is. I haven't been so lucky on that.

 

But whether they make it or not, one thing is certain. They're in for one heck of a ride.


Wrapping up this first series of videos, (from Welcome To The Premiere until this one), we come full circle on the topic of defining success in today's music industry. In a nutshell - each artist defines it differently.  

 

This is part of a documentary series that I worked on as a photographer, videographer and social media strategist. On the show we went behind the scenes & follow Texas-based singer-songwriters living the Troubadour life.

 

While I was part of the production team for the entire run of the show, I was just one of a half dozen or so videographers who contributed. A note to my fellow internet content creators: one particularly interesting element of this documentary is the gear I used as one of the videographers on the show. For all the content I currently shoot, I use a variety of enthusiast level cameras from GoPros to Canon Point & Shoots to Fujifilm mirrorless cameras. You can see all the current gear I use here.

 

The primary cameras I used on this shoot were Canon 7D DSLRs. Look at this episode and leave a comment about what you think about the overall production quality of this piece with the 7D and GoPros mixed into shots from the other videographers using professional cinema cameras.

Taking the Backroads, Again
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One weakness I’ve always had as a photographer is that I have never personally liked my own work. I think this is a curse for many creative types. In my past life as a musician, I rarely remember being satisfied with the music I played or produced. Fast-forward to today and I still live through a never-ending cycle of feeling generally unfulfilled with the results of my labor. That doesn’t mean I’m not passionate about my work. I love my work. I have enough “ah-ha” moments which keep me “almost satisfied” and let me know that the “BIG AH-HA” is, perhaps, just around the creative corner. This drives me to keep seeking those small “ah-ha” moments, those fleeting minutes of satisfaction when everything comes together and makes me happy enough with the result in the moment to propel me to seek out the next one.

 

I look at the work of photographers I admire most and silently whine to myself that I will never achieve their level of artistry. At the same time, I am making a living by providing services which are heavily weighed towards producing video and photos for clients. Photography has become democratized and the market value of professional photography has plummeted. I realize my situation in today’s photo services market is a rare and blessed one – especially for someone who struggles so much with the craft. But I’m doing what I love and making a living at it. …and that’s the big point.

 

One key element of being able to do what you love and continue to love what you do, is to not allow outside forces to mess up your situation. I'm looking at you, overachieving multitaskers. 

 

TACKLING THE MYTH OF MULTITASKING

 

I've always been interested in the myth of multitasking. We fool ourselves into thinking that we can do multiple things at once when in actuality all we are really doing is switching from one thing to another and perhaps to another in rapid succession. The end result is that we are not paying total attention to any one thing and everything suffers. 

 

It's understandable that we find ourselves in this situation. Demands on today's workers are unrealistic to the point of being insane. We have the additional stressor of watching peers, family, and friends pretend on social media that their lives are perfect when we all know they aren't. 

 

So how do we create a reality which allows us to slow down and not react to unreasonable requests from bosses, clients, customers, and not carry the weight of thinking we have to keep up with the fictional lives of those we follow on social media? The answer is simpler than you think.

 

Just stop. Slow down and react on your terms at a rate that is comfortable for you.

 

This doesn't mean that it's time to get lazy. It's important to have a strong work ethic. You still need to respond to clients, bosses, customers, and your work peers in a reasonable amount of time. But the key here is that you do so in a "reasonable" amount of time and that you control what that means for you. Do not let outside forces dictate that for you.

 

IDENTIFYING THE SOURCE

 

So, I said the answer was simple. I didn't say it was easy. If you are going to do this, you have to be responsive to others' needs but disciplined about exercising your free will to control what reasonable means. I guarantee it means something different to you than it does to others. Developing an understanding with others about what your boundaries are is critical - but it can be difficult at times. 

 

I mean it. It can be hard, messy, and uncomfortable but the pay off is living a daily life that is immeasurably less stressful.

 

Would you rather:

 

1) Spend every day of your working life dreading the phone calls, emails and text messages from clients or co-workers; or

 

2) Be able to relax on a daily basis because you have control of the relationships and expectations with clients and co-workers?

 

If you chose one, you're dumb.

 

You obviously chose two. OK - how do we get there? 

 

Setting Expectations

 

You have to set expectations early and often with any person who is difficult to deal with. It is critical that you mentally prepare yourself for dealing with difficult people who run over others. They demand more than they should and generally bully their way through life. This behavior is in their DNA.

 

Once you set your expectations about how the relationship with this person will proceed, they will continue to push the boundaries to see where your weaknesses are. If you bend, they will push until you break. This is a power struggle and all you need to do is not give in. 

 

It doesn't help that most people they encounter reinforce their bad behavior by putting up with it and not calling them out. They feed the monster by trying to live up to the unrealistic expectations which have been set.

 

How do I deal with this? I don't. The solution is really that simple. Just don't put up with it. The main ingredient in this recipe is a backbone. Say "no" when you need to say no and mean it.

 

My basic tactic is two-fold. 

 

1) Limit communications to text-based platforms (email, texting, CSM platforms). Most stressful situations arise out of verbal communications because either participants come away from conversations with a different understanding of what was agreed to or conversations get sidetracked by unrelated issues. Additionally, there are usually no notes of the conversation so you don't have an accurate record of what was discussed and agreed to, if anything, and who is responsible for what tasks.

 

To be fair, sometimes a client or a coworker is more comfortable just speaking rather than typing or there may be in situations where talking is their only means of communication (they're in traffic, perhaps). In those situations, I ask them to leave a voice mail and I will respond via email. If I need to keep a record of their communications, I can text the voicemail to myself and save it as an audio file in an archive. This is a feature of the iPhone so I'm not sure if it's available to Android users. 

 

2) Respond via text/email. I have boilerplate responses to typical requests that I can cut and paste into emails and texts. Much of the stress involved in these relationships are created when having to constantly respond to the same unreasonable requests over and over again. You can remove that stress completely by sending the exact same response that reinforces your position and resets focus on the real tasks at hand. 

 

Always be professional, respond only to items which are work-related, ignore personal comments (until you are ready to quit over them), and always, always be courteous and positive, even when you have to fake it. 

 

If it helps, imagine the difficult person you are dealing with as a speck of dirt on the mountain you are climbing. Focus on the mountain, not the dirt on the bottom of your shoes.

 

Real Talk

 

So here's the real secret of being successful at this: you have to passionately care about your client's success, their customers, and you have to deliver what you say you will deliver when you commit to it. This means kicking tail and not taking names. This means having a servant's heart and practicing humility. This means committing to realistic deadlines, not fantastical ones. This means owning your mistakes and keeping your client/co-workers in check when necessary.

 

This also means being prepared to quit, get fired or removed from a project if the time comes for any one of those scenarios to play themselves out.

 

Standing up for yourself will not be popular with everyone around you. It will certainly be unpopular with at least one person on your team or you wouldn't need to be utilizing my advice. 

 

You have to be good at what you do. You must keep yourself in demand at a level that getting fired may be an inconvenience, but not a crisis.

 

Your goal here is not to start a personal war with anyone. Your goal here is defending your mental and physical health so you can perform at your highest level for the longest amount of time. The difficult person who demands too much of you will not see it this way but that, frankly, is not your problem. Let them get their own self-help. You are responsible, first and foremost, for you. By taking care of yourself, you can fulfill your obligations to those who you work with, including the overachiever, and those who count on you.    

 

When you find yourself at a place when "the worst that can happen" is not a factor in how you handle a situation, you are freed from the chains that the overachiever wants to saddle you with. Once you are there, you will find that you command attention and respect because you naturally carry yourself with more confidence. It's amazing what working hard, performing at a consistently high level, and staying focused on what's really important does for your daily life.   

 

I'll prepare a post later with specific suggestions about my successes and other successes with this. I call every situation a success because no matter how I handle it, I remove the stressor from my daily life. Sometimes I stay on a project, sometimes I fire a client, sometimes the client fires me. I've even had a couple situations where I parted ways with a client only to work with them again in the future. So many stories... I'll have to start a series. 

 

I promise, this really is simple. I understand it's not easy. Rarely is anything worth doing easy. The payoff is worth the effort. 

 

A Tip For You When You’re Traveling ABOUT DIFFUSING STRESS

 

I have to drive to Austin from Dallas frequently for shoots and events. It’s a soul-sucking drive on three to five-lane highways of nothing but construction and chain restaurants. I have stopped taking I-35, our main cross-state thoroughfare either direction. I don't like it so I stopped doing it.

 

I avoid I-35 using one of two strategies. One: I’ll drive 281 via Hico, TX to Austin or back. Or two: When time allows, I tell my GPS to “Avoid Highways” and then travel to Austin/Dallas using an alternate route with a city or town I’ve never been to as the mid-point in the drive. This means that on occasion I take a 3 1/2 hour drive via I-35 and turn it into a 5 or 6-hour excursion via small towns and two-lane roads. The added time includes frequent stops to shoot interesting things along the way. Of course, most of you are not traversing I-35 across the great state of Texas. Apply this to the I-35 in your work-life.

 

I’ve rarely shared the pics from these excursions because the travel is more of a way for me to collect my thoughts, plan ahead, and to explore the greatest state in the US. Maybe I’ll start posting these at random intervals with a little backstory. Maybe seeing what you’re missing off the I-35 in your life will persuade you to take the backroads sometime.

 

Evant, Texas

 

This is Evant, TX. It’s a town of less than 400 at the crossroads of highways 281 and 84. Evant was first a settlement called Langford Cove, settled by Asa Langford and his family in 1855. Langford served as postmaster in the first post office, named Cove, established in February 1876. By the late 1850s, Langford had built a general store, a blacksmith shop, and a sawmill near the current site of the town. In 1884 the town changed its name in honor of local land-owner Evant Brooks.

 

This image was shot with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLR using a Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L Series lens at 17mm. I shot this at about 9 PM at ISO 3200, auto WB, aperture set at f/18 with the shutter open for 15 seconds. This was obviously before I sold all my Canon gear and converted to Fujifilm so it's a pretty old photo. 

 

I have to give credit to singer/songwriter Beth Wood from Portland for the inspiration to make this change in my travel. Do yourself a favor and pick up “Backroads” by Beth Wood for your next trip. You can thank me later.

 

“Here it’s all neon and noise
But I am denim and turquoise
I’m trying to find the meaning in all the chatter

 

 

The moment’s demanding a little understanding
You go on ahead, but I’m gonna take the back roads

 

 

Always running two steps behind
Truth be told, lately, I don’t mind

 

It’s a mystery where we go when we die
But some folks try and crack that code
You can spend your attention looking for redemption
You go on ahead, but I’m gonna take the back roads” – Beth Wood

Bloggiovanni gallucciComment
Songwriting As Craft (Texas Music Documentary, Episode 5)

In this episode we spend time with music industry executives and professional, award winning songwriters talking what it takes to  hone your craft and find success - whiter success means. 

We are also introduced to Woody Russell. He plays "The Skin I'm In" one of my very favorite performances from the entire five years I spent working on the show. During the shoot I remember being mesmerized by the tone of his sound. Of course, as is always the case, you had to be there - there's just no way to replicate the experience of being in the room - but we did our best. 


This is part of a documentary series that I worked on as a photographer, videographer and social media strategist. On the show we went behind the scenes & follow Texas-based singer-songwriters living the Troubadour life.

While I was part of the production team for the entire run of the show, I was just one of a half dozen or so videographers who contributed. A note to my fellow internet content creators: one particularly interesting element of this documentary is the gear I used as one of the videographers on the show. For all the content I currently shoot, I use a variety of enthusiast level cameras from GoPros to Canon Point & Shoots to Fujifilm mirrorless cameras. You can see all the current gear I use here.

The primary cameras I used on this shoot were Canon 7D DSLRs. Look at this episode and leave a comment about what you think about the overall production quality of this piece with the 7D and GoPros mixed into shots from the other videographers using professional cinema cameras.

Tips For Buying Your Next Memory Card

So, you didn't ask for this, but I'm going to tell you everything I know about choosing your next memory card. When we're done, I'll offer some recommendations on cards I use everyday.

If you're a regular reader of photography blogs most of them will have some kind of list of essential items you need to keep in your camera bag. One of the items on that list will always be something like "extra memory cards."

As an aside, but also related to this subject, you will also come across articles which direct you to "grow up" and shoot RAW format. Many, actually most professional photographers will claim that you can't be a real photographer if you shoot JPEG. 

I shoot JPEG. 

It's one of the great myths of digital photography that JPEG images are so inferior to RAW as to make them unsuitable for professional work.  So much so that it has been adopted as gospel by both photographers and editors alike. 

JPEG is different from RAW, that's for sure. Each format has advantages and disadvantages. But to automatically consider JPEG files unsuitable for professional work across the board is simply wrong. Anyone who claims this as their truth is not knowledgeable about how the compression in RAW and JPEG’s work and has not considered all the situations where JPEG file format is simply a better choice than RAW. But that’s for another time.

So far so good. 

Maybe you have a trip coming up and will remember the this list of photography essentials from a blog you've read. Or if you have "grown up" and have begun to shoot in RAW format you've noticed that the RAW files occupy three times as much space as the JPEG's did. One of the down sides of shooting RAW is that you must use either more or larger capacity memory cards than you do with JPEG. 

Armed with this new knowledge, you head down to the local big box store in search of a new memory card or two.

Let's not kid ourselves. You never thought that there might be too many options for you to easily decide upon, you just thought maybe there were different storage capacities. 8, 16, 32, maybe 64 GB. You assumed you'd stand at the counter (or in front of your computer) ready to make an easy and quick purchase.

But then, you’re about to choose your new memory card and you realize, too late, that there are many different kinds and types of memory cards. So many! More than you had imagined there would be! Am I wrong? Well luckily you're watching this video where I will help you be an expert or expert on the subject for the next time you go to a new card. 

A large volume or multiple smaller capacity?

This is the first question to ask yourself. Do you get a few smaller capacity cards or one large capacity card? Most articles I have read recommend that you get several smaller capacity cards. Losing a card or having a card get corrupted can hurt. If you have several smaller cards, you might avoid losing all the shots you've taken since your photos will be spread across several cards. 

However, if you're disorganized and have a tendency to lose things, it may be difficult for you to handle yourself with more than one card. Perhaps you should cross your fingers and work with a couple of cards with greater capacity.

Before leaving home ...

Look at the specifications of your camera to see what type of cards your camera supports. Your manual will tell you what maximum capacity and what the maximum speed your camera will accept. Not all cards are compatible with all cameras. Sometimes your new card will not be recognized by your camera. These cards can be expensive, so you need to make sure you are getting the right one. So don't waste your time or money. Before you buy, know what kind of cards are supported by your camera.

Now, let's talk about some basic information which will help you with selecting your next memory card. I'll try not to get into too many technicalities. 

What are the main features you should know when buying a memory card?

Let’s talk about the different types cards.

For prosumer digital cameras, most likely you need SD (Secure Digital) or SDHC (Secure Digital High Capacity) cards. Many professional cameras use CF cards - but we're going to skip right over those. Perhaps we'll talk about those in another video .

SDHC cards are the "improved" versions of the SD cards. In general, SDHC cards are newer and more capable of providing faster write and read speed and higher capacity than the earlier, SD Cards. That does not mean that there are no fast or good SD cards. A card's suitability for your situation will depend on the model of card and your camera's needs but, in general, you just need to know that an SDHC card is an improved version of an SD card.

Let’s talk about card capacity.

This is probably the feature that most folks have in mind when they go shopping for a new memory card. Once you have identified what the maximum capacity or size card is that your camera brand and model accepts, you know what the maximum capacity is that you need to be looking for. And like I said before, many photographers will recommended you have more than one card of a lower capacity rather than just one card with a large capacity. However, if you have decided to shoot in RAW or you have used smaller cards and have already decided you need to increase capacity, then you already have an approximate idea what the minimum and maximum size cards are that you need.

Now let’s talk about card speed.

The speed of a memory card refers to the speed of writing and reading information (i.e. your pictures and videos) to the card. It's very important that you seriously consider this if you often shoot stills in burst mode or if you shoot video because these are the situations where you'll need faster cards.

If your camera supports SDHC format it's also likely to work properly with SD, but remember that a card with slower performance can make your camera stall. That is, your camera may technically be able to shoot a high frame rate per second, but if your card is slow the performance of the camera will suffer and you will not be able to shoot at the camera's maximum frame rate.

On the other hand, if your camera supports SDHC but you're not going to shoot RAW in bursts or if HD video isn't a priority, you're better off keeping your money in order to invest in something else; a good SD card might be just fine for your needs.

Cards are marked on their packages as being of a certain class. Looking at a card's class helps you determine what you can expect performance-wise from a memory card. Here are the classes of different SDHC memory cards and their corresponding minimum transfer speeds at which they can read and write information.

A Class 2 SDHC card will write 2 MB per second minimum. A Class 4 card will write a minimum of 4 MB per second to the card. A Class 6 - 6 MB per second minimum and a Class 10 will write 10MB per second at its slowest speed.

If you are considering an SD card, note that the class numbers correspond to the maximum speed at which a card can read or write information. No reference is made to the minimum read/write speed as it is in the case of the SDHC cards. That's just something to be aware of. 

Let’s talk about card brands.

There are many brands on the market with very different prices. Unfortunately, it is almost always the case that the very cheap cards are rarely good. So try to focus on well-known brands and read the reviews for the cards on amazon to make sure what you're buying is really what you think. At the end of this video, I will suggest some options.

Caring for your memory cards.

You will have to replace your memory cards if you do not take care of them properly, so I leave a few quick tips that you get the best life possible with your cards :-)

Keep them protected in some kind of case. Not only will this help you avoid them getting scratched or dirty, it will help you keep them organized and prevent them from getting lost. 

I keep two Promaster Weatherproof memory card cases with me in my bags. The blue case is where I keep cards that are freshly formatted and ready to be used. The red case holds cards that have already been used and which need to be ingested to a computer or external hard drive. I picked these up at the local Academy Sporting Goods store, but you can find them on Amazon for about $20 each.

Be sure to eject the card properly once you've downloaded to the computer.

Do not delete photos directly from the camera as you reduce the lifetime of the card. It is preferable to delete all the photos at once after you successfully download the files to your computer.

Format the card in the camera - not in the computer.

And of course ... treat the card with care. Do not force it when inserting or removing it from the camera or in other devices.

An extra tip…

Do not get obsessed about cards. Capacities and speeds are constantly increasing every few months. If the price of the card you want seems like it’s too expensive, wait for a couple months to see if you can find it on sale or if the price comes down. If you can’t wait, or just don’t want to wait, then just buy the card but do not worry about being the last one to buy the card before a price drop or a feature improvement. I can assure you, no matter what you buy in tech, a newer, better, cheaper version is just around the corner. 

So what do I recommend?

If you want a good memory card, you can try these. Any of them will work fine as long as you need a SD.

Eye-Fi MobiPro SDHC 32GB (Class 10)

I love  Eye-Fi cards. The Eye-Fi MobiPro lets you connect your camera to your computer via Wi-Fi, even if your camera does not have the Wi-Fi function. If your camera does have WiFi, you will find the Eye-Fi works much better than the camera's built in wireless functionality and it brings more features to the camera to boot! Eye-Fi cards simply work and they eliminate the pain of manually importing photos to your computer. 

Delkin Devices & Sandisk 32GB (Class 10)

Across all my cameras, I use 32 GB SD cards except in my Vixia Mini X video cameras - I use SanDisk 64 GB SD cards in those. I could run the risk of losing everything in a shoot since I shoot JPEG and can pretty easily get several hours of constant shooting onto a single card. Part of me is just simply taking the chance since I've never had a card in a camera fail on me (knock on wood). However, the cautious part of me makes sure I am always shooting with two cameras. So if a card in one camera gets corrupted somehow, I at least have the shots on the other camera. 

To be a little more cautious, when I think of it, I will take a card out of my camera during a break in the shoot and back it up on a self-powered Western Digital My Passport Wireless hard drive, which has a memory card slot built in to the disk enclosure. This allows you to back up a memory card without needing a computer to act as a traffic cop for the image files. I used to use a HyperDrive iPad Hard Drive for the same purpose, but the Western Digital My Passport Wireless is multifunctional - it acts as a regular external hard drive and connects to my iPhone or iPad via WiFi as well - and it copies the files off the SD card faster than the HyperDrive does. When I travel, I take two of the Western Digital My Passport Wireless hard drives and I copy all the photos from the day's shoot onto both drives for redundancy.   

So, when it comes to brands, while I have tried several, I have consistently used Delkin Devices and SanDisk memory cards for well over a decade now with literally not a single data failure. Because of their physically fragile nature, an SD or SDHC card is likely to wear down eventually. By this I mean it is likely to physically break after a certain amount of time depending on how you treat them. As is the case with all my gear, I don't purposely treat my gear badly, but I certainly don't go out of my way to treat it like it's irreplaceable either. And the SD cards are usually a victim of normal wear and tear on shoots.  

Many photographers will gasp, but I have some cards that are over 7 years old that are still in my regular rotation. The CF Cards are practically indestructible. The SD & SDHC cards, not so much. But if you treat them well, there's no reason why you shouldn't be able to get several years of use out of a brand-name card. 

I hope these basic tips help you when going to buy your next memory card. I wish I knew all this when I was starting out. If for no other reason, I could have saved some money and used it to build in some redundancy into my storage or to get a few more burritos. 

Vloggiovanni gallucciComment