Summer Photography Workshops

Join me in exploring fascinating locations, improving your skill, pursuing your vision, making friends, and having fun in all areas of our planet. Each workshop location and itinerary is meant to challenge, inspire, and excite you, and allow you to reach outside your comfort zone (where most learning takes place). Beginners to advanced photographers welcome.

Here are my upcoming photography workshops. Full details and registration are here

Cyanotype Printing
May 7
June 18

Alvord Desert, Oregon
June 3 – 5

Central Oregon Coast
June 7 – 12

Columbia River Gorge
June 14 – 16

Central Oregon Coast
Sept 6 – 11

Scotland, Isle of Skye (only 1 space remaining!)
Sept 21 – 28

Iceland (only 1 space remaining!)
Oct 3 – 14

Real World Numbers About Freelancing

We all hear the complaint, the wailing, the gnashing of teeth, the disbelief. Why the high prices? Why do I have to pay so much for your work? Well, sir/madam, I am an independent business owner, not an employee. With the work I perform, the services I provide, I must make a living. Simply put, I must be able to provide for my home and all that comes with it, my business and all that comes with it, and protections for me and you in the form of insurance and other measures.

Myself.

I’m not a small part of a larger organization. The documents I filed with the Secretary of State and the IRS list me as the owner/manager/CEO. No one else.

But that’s not the primary reason you may think my fees are too high. Sure, I account for the value I bring to your project in the creative fee I include in my project estimate. Wouldn’t you? My creativity, my problem-solving skills, my efficiency, my professionalism, my ability to provide you with the thing you need has value; this is what you’re hiring me for, isn’t it? Otherwise, you could ask anyone to fulfill your request. You probably have a staff person who’s handy with a camera and who might be able to figure out how to accomplish the task. Do you have time for that? Do they have the equipment or facilities ready at hand? Can you spare them from their normal duties? What will it cost you in actual time and salary to shift them from their regular job to this project? What will it cost if you have to do it all over again with a professional? But, that’s another discussion.

Here’s the primary reason you think my fees are too high. This refers back to that single word following the first paragraph and the fact that my business is mostly a Business of One. Kind of like the Army, except without all the support. Here’s a breakdown of real world numbers showing both the actual cost of being self-employed and the assistance provided by an employer. When you look at these numbers, imagine if your employer suddenly decided to stop its sponsored benefits and you had to provide them on your own. That’s me.

If you’re just starting out as as a self-employed person, or considering the jump, look at these numbers and halt your leap for a moment. Have you considered all your costs and expenses and factored them into your fee structure? If you haven’t calculated your cost of doing business, have a look at this online calculator. It doesn’t have all the fields you may need and it may have more than you need, but it will get you started. You can create your own calculator in a spreadsheet using these fields and make it as extensive and inclusive as you need for the independent needs of your own business. Have a look: NPPA Cost of Doing Business (CODB) Calculator

Here are the numbers I was talking about (these are amounts from 2015 employer rewards statement data, your specific numbers will vary). I’ve rounded the figures for visual clarity and ease of calculation:

Let’s begin with a base employee annual salary of $46,000
This is the amount you earn before taxes, whether it’s through an hourly wage or salary. It includes other compensation like paid holidays and sick leave. This is the amount you enter into the CODB calculator as your desired annual salary (or whatever amount you’d like).

If you are an employee, your employer pays for some things and you pay for some things. These are “voluntary” benefits. Your company could take these away:

Employer Sponsored Benefits
Medical Insurance
Employer pays: $9800
Employee pays: $2450
Dental Insurance
Employer pays: $500
Employee pays: $275
Vision Insurance
Employer pays: $0
Employee pays: $160
Life Insurance
Employer pays: $110
Employee pays: $0
Long Term Disability Insurance
Employer pays: $224
Employee pays: $0
Business Travel Insurance
Employer pays: $2
Employee pays: $0
Employee Assistance Program
Employer pays: $20
Employee pays: $0
401K (matching and deferral)
Employer pays: $1400
Employee pays: $3200
401K Contribution
Employer pays: $2300
Employee pays: $0

Total Employer Contribution: $14,356
Total Employee Contribution: $6,085
Total Contribution: $20,441

The government also mandates that employers provide some benefits (these your company can’t take away):

Government Mandated Benefits
Social Security
Employer pays: $2900
Employee pays: $2900
Medicare
Employer pays: $670
Employee pays: $670
Worker’s Compensation
Employer pays: $350
Employee pays: $0
Unemployment Insurance
Employer pays: $260
Employee pays: $0

Total Employer Contribution: $4,180
Total Employee Contribution: $3,570
Total Contribution: $7,750

So, to tally the numbers, for an employee with an annual salary of $46,000, an employer will pay $46,000 for the salary, $14,356 in employee sponsored benefits, and $4,180 in government mandated benefits. The employer actually pays for their employee a total of $64,536.

The employee will pay $6,085 for their share of employer sponsored benefits and $3,570 for their share of the government mandated benefits, for a total of $9,655.

However, the employee’s share ($9,655) comes out of their earnings, reducing their annual salary from $46,000 to $36,345, before taxes, which will take out another chunk for the federal government, state government and, in some cases, local or city government.

But, the self-employed person would actually need a gross income closer to $74,000 (the employer contribution of $64,536 plus employee contribution of $9,655) to cover all the listed benefits and deductions, just to cover the $46,000 ($36,345) annual salary. And that doesn’t account for the higher costs for individual business owners for things like insurance and taxes, and additional overhead expenses like studio rental, equipment, continuing education/training, marketing and promotion/advertising, etc. And this is where the pain resides.

A large company can distribute costs across its operation, especially if it provides multiple services or products. The self-employed creative individual has limited options because they have limited resources of time and individuals. It would be great if I could split myself into three or four pieces, each handling a separate aspect of my business while I concentrated on the most important task. But, because I am a Business of One, I have to set aside time for making calls, preparing marketing materials, preparing estimates, quotes, and invoices, bookkeeping, meeting with attorneys or accountant (which is a cost), chasing down late invoices, researching and chasing down copyright infringement, registering images with the copyright office, researching and developing new products or services, web designing, social media engaging, networking, learning, researching and purchasing/replacing equipment, eating and sleeping (hopefully at least twice a week), all of which take time and are not usually billable to a client. I don’t get paid for the day to day administrative upkeep of my business. If I did, if I wanted to be paid every day of the week, like an employee, I would need to charge you, the client, even more than you don’t want to pay now.

So, when you see the fees listed for the photographer, don’t freak out. It’s ok to ask questions and for the photographer to explain all this, if necessary. Just remember, we don’t have an employer, we’re not a small part of a large company. We have to provide all our own benefits, our own incentive bonuses, our own Christmas party, our own marketing, our own company vehicle and office space, our own existence.

If you like what we do, if you appreciate the value our work brings to your project, all we request is your understanding and that you look beyond price. Because, we provide more than a necessary cost of operations (an aspect of your own cost of doing business), and while we are able to negotiate and hopefully reach a win-win situation, and while we would do the work for free if we could survive doing it (I think I speak for many creative business owners with that thought), we can’t lose money every time we take on a project. We can’t stay in business if we’re essentially paying you to do the work you request.

Don’t Hurry, Be Curious Podcast: Episode 2

Don't Hurry Be Curious podcast logo

Episode 2: Photography as a Way
What does photography mean to you? What role does photography play in your life? This episode we delve into photography as a “Way of Life” and what that means.
A Way is a kind of path, a personal philosophy, a type of quest or journey of self-discovery to seek and address questions about ourselves and our world, to find our place in the world amongst our family, friends, community, society, and culture. It’s the manner in which we live our life in a a direction toward an idealized lifestyle we select for ourselves. Five characteristics of a Way are:

  • 1. Vision
  • 2. Values
  • 3. Passion
  • 4. Talent
  • 5. Goals

Two concepts of a Way are:

  • Wa: harmony, peace, or peacefulness
  • ensō: a hand-drawn circle symbolizing the interconnectedness of things

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Show Notes:

My photography workshops & classes

Blue Planet Photography workshops
Blue Planet Photography classes

Where to find me on social media

Facebook
Twitter
Behance
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Don’t Hurry, Be Curious Podcast: Episode 1

Don't Hurry Be Curious podcast logo

Episode 1: Phodogma
In my inaugural podcast I introduce myself and the podcast. My first topic is Phodogma, a term I think I just coined, which refers to the dogmatic belief in photography of various things from “status” to the “Rules”. I’ll occasionally have a segment about unwarranted beliefs in photography. Are there distinguishing characteristics between amateur and professional photographers and between those just playing at photography and those who are serious about learning the craft and exploring the possibilities? Certainly. But the characteristics of the pro and amateur, dilettante and practitioner, do not revolve around how the photograph but around why. In this Phodogma episode I talk about four dogmatic beliefs some people think convey a kind of status on a photographer and explain why none of those beliefs matter in defining who those photographers are. These four things are:

1. Auto vs Manual
2. JPG vs Raw
3. Equipment
4. Film vs Digital

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Show Notes:

My photography workshops & classes

Blue Planet Photography workshops
Blue Planet Photography classes

Where to find me on social media

Facebook
Twitter
Behance
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The Reimagining of Quotations

I’m a collector of quotes. Sometimes I search for quotes of a certain theme, other times I come across them serendipitously. I began compiling them in a small notebook, just writing them in as I found them, in no particular order or category. They are mostly quotes about photography, and art in general. A lot of people collect quotes because they are inspiring. Most quotes collected are probably from someone who is admired or respected and what they’ve said strikes a certain chord within us; we can relate to it in some way. That’s how I started. But, along the way I discovered something else about the quotes in my notebook. Sometimes the quote would lead me to new information. Rather than simply stuffing quotes into a book like trophy heads on a wall or names on a birding life list, I’d search their name online and do a bit of a ‘background check’ to find out more about them, what they do/did, and also to confirm the quote actually belonged to that person. Sometimes, attribution is difficult to determine or is for the wrong person, yet the quote continues to persist, passed around forever in the aetherspace. More often than not, when I research a quote I meet a new person I didn’t know about before, learn a bit of history, a philosophy, a different concept, understand a bit of technology, it’s usually something interesting.

One interesting thing I uncovered, too, is what I’m going to call “quote reimagining” after the ongoing fad of reimagining older movies into newer movies, either to upgrade an aging film or topic or to completely alter the story for a new audience. After a while, I starting coming across quotes that I knew I saw before but thought it was attributed to a different person, or it just sounded really familiar. Since I don’t have my quotes in a database, I had to “scroll” through my notebook to find the “duplicate”. Sure enough, there are some quotes that appear to have been ‘reimagined’ or ‘recycled’, with a sprinkling of new words or phrases to be sure it’s not an exact copy. I do think some of these duplicates may have been coincidence. It’s not as if these concepts are proprietary, and the approach to some topics, like failure and observation/seeing, tends to breed similar sentiments.

So, here is a compilation of some reimagined quotes. The earliest (though maybe not the first) instance of the quote is listed first (1), then any similar are below (1A, 1B, etc.). You be the judge as to their similarity, coincidence, or copy.

1. You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus – Mark Twain (1875 – 1910)
1A. There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept – Ansel Adams (1902 – 1984)

2. The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance, and this, and not the external name and detail, is the true reality – Aristotle (385 – 322 BC)
2A. Vision is the art of seeing things invisible – Jonathan Swift (1667 -1745)
2B. It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see – Henry David Thoreau (1817 – 1862)
2C. No great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did, he would cease to be an artist – Oscar Wilde (1854 – 1900)
2D. Anything that excites me for any reason I will photograph; not searching for unusual subject matter, but making the commonplace unusual – Edward Weston (1886 – 1958)
2E. I didn’t want to tell the tree or weed what it was. I wanted it to tell me something and through me express its meaning in nature – Wynn Bullock (1902 – 1975)
2F. I am not interested in shooting new things; I am interested to see things new – Ernst Haas (1921 – 1986)
2G. To me, photographing is an act of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place…I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them – Elliott Erwitt (1928 – )

3. No great genius has ever existed without some touch of madness – Aristotle (385 – 322 BC)
3A. Before the beginning of great brilliance, there must be chaos. Before a brilliant person begins something great, they must look foolish to the crowd – I Ching (200 BC)
3B. You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star – Friedrich Nietzche (1844 – 1900)
3C. What garlic is to salad, insanity is to art – Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848 – 1907)
3D. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric – Bertrand Russell (1872 – 1970)
3E. If at first an idea is not absurd, there is no hope for it – Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955)
3F. All great deeds and all great thoughts have a ridiculous beginning – Albert Camus (1913 – 1960)

4. Art is not to be found by touring to Egypt, China, or Peru; if you cannot find it at your own door, you will never find it – Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882)
4A. The artist’s world is limitless. It can be found anywhere, far from where he lives or a few feet away. It is always on his door step – Paul Strand (1890 – 1976)
4B. If you do not see what is around you every day, what will you see when you go to Tangiers? – Freeman Patterson (1937 – )
4C. When one says, ‘Look, there is nothing out there’, what we are really saying is ‘I can’t see’ – Terry Tempest Williams (1955 – )

5. Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth – Rumi (1207 – 1273)
5A. If you’re out there shooting, things will happen for you. If you’re not out there, you’ll only hear about it – Jay Maisel (1931 – )
5B. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take – Wayne Gretzky (1961 – )

6. It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation – Herman Melville (1819 – 1891)
6A. Failure after a long perseverance is much grander than never to have a striving good enough to be called a failure – George Eliot (1819 – 1880)

7. One must learn by doing the thing. For though you think you know it, you have no certainty until you try – Sophocles (496 – 406 BC)
7A. For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them – Aristotle (385 – 322 BC)
7B. We learn to do something by doing it. There is no other way – John Holt (1923 – 1985)
7C. One of the things about the arts that is so important is that in the arts you discover the only way to learn how to do it is by doing it. You can’t write by reading a book about it. The only way to learn how to write a book is to sit down and try to write a book – David McCullough (1933 – )

10 Things Photographers and Artists Should Consider

I don’t usually do lists, but as I was working on a project and reading at the same time, this popped into my head. I’ve left off explanations for some and used minimal explanation for others. You should fill in your own blanks (that could be #11 or #12).

1. Explore: internally (introspection) and externally (exteroception)
2. Experiment: Don’t follow convention (for too long). Blaze your own trail
3. Challenge yourself mentally and physically: Don’t bite off more than you can chew – work in increments you can accomplish yet have a need to push yourself beyond current limits
4. Challenge your skills
5. Share your progress in a way that is informative and interesting but not self-serving or bragging
6. Don’t care what others think about what you do or how you do it. They are not you and you are not them. You are you. Do what you love, create what you love
7. Set goals (see #3 & #4) but be flexible in how, when, and if you reach them. Don’t be afraid to coast, regain your bearings or your balance or to reassess and change course. They’re your goals, they don’t belong to anyone else
8. Don’t be afraid
9. Seek knowledge and experience wherever it can be found, in all areas. You never know when one thing will connect with another in an amazing way
10. Have fun

Ok, here’s an 11

11. Be a friend to other artists

Don’t Be A Dilettante

There has been and continues to be talk about how the professional photography industry has been “overrun” with amateurs, flooding the market with photographs and driving down photographer income. This is only one part of the phenomenon. Three main elements are 1) technology which allows nearly anyone to make a well-exposed and, if they are competent, a well-composed photograph, 2) the capability to distribute photographs worldwide for almost no cost, and 3) buyers who enjoy increased profits from lower fees paid to individuals who have very little or no knowledge of the photography industry or how to price their work accordingly to make a reasonable profit.

You could distinguish amateur from professional based on a wide range of criteria. Some amateurs are very competent and in many ways operate similar to a professional while others have really no clue or care what they are doing.

One critical factor that separates amateur from pro is commitment. Commitment to stick it through the tough times, to understand the industry, to build relationships with clients, to maintain a certain level of technical and creative skill, to use ethical and moral business practices, to help others become better professionals.

Another term for an amateur who isn’t committed is dilettante, an Italian word which in its first usage referred to a person who loved art. But today, the term is more negative, describing a person who engages in non-serious dabbling within a presumably serious field and is ill-equipped (or actually has no intention or desire) to meet the minimum standards of that field, study, or practice. One of my pet peeves is hearing someone tell me “I don’t want to be a professional” when we’re talking about pricing work. That’s the sign of a dilettante. They’re happy to make a little money from their efforts, but not committed enough to take it further – to learn about the business side of things, to help themselves make more money, for one thing. You don’t have to be a “professional” to act like one and just because you don’t intend photography to be your career doesn’t mean you must give away your work for free (or nearly so) or not understand copyright or how contracts work. Meeting the minimum standards (and in photography, the minimums are fairly reasonable to meet) would help boost the industry, help raise the “standard of living” of photographers across the board.

I wouldn’t presume to call myself an auto mechanic because I have a complete set of tools and know how to replace an alternator belt, and if I did I’m sure auto mechanics across the nation would scoff. I might make a decent pizza dough or cornbread, but I’m no baker. I painted landscapes and abstracts a lot when I was younger, but I don’t claim to be a painter.

I’ve been making photographs since I was young. I don’t have an art degree, but I’ve been a full-time photographer for 15 years and part-time for 6 years before that. I study copyright law and business methods even though it’s not my favorite thing. I’d much rather be out photographing. I’m a member of professional organizations and become involved in their operation, though I’d much rather be out photographing. I spend hours on the computer processing photographs, keywording, uploading to galleries, creating marketing materials, creating invoices, chasing invoices, calling and emailing clients, even though I would really much rather be out photographing. I attend professional education programs and continue to learn online and from others so I can maintain and improve my skill level (this I enjoy, even though I would still rather be out photographing).

I have a college degree and graduate education in wildlife biology and ecology. I worked in that field for over 10 years. I still mention that in my bio and casual conversation because it helps inform others about my background, but I don’t call myself a wildlife biologist anymore because my commitment to that field is much less than it was when I was actively conducting research, working in that field and getting paid for it according to the standards in that industry.

When I was working as a wildlife biologist, people would be envious of my job when I mentioned what I did. They had a romantic ideal of what it was like to be a biologist, imagining how beautiful it was to be “in Nature”, sitting beside gurgling streams or contemplating existence on a mountain top, handling cuddly animals, or having the pick of hunting and fishing spots. Sure, those times happened and it was incredible when it did. But, that was in between days of fighting off mosquito attacks, avoiding sunstroke or hypothermia, getting drenched in freezing downpours, digging a stuck vehicle out of the mud, dealing with the politics of government and private agencies and organizations, egos of co-workers and supervisors, writing reports, writing grants, filling out job applications, packing and unpacking.

The same applies when I tell people I’m a photographer. They imagine the romantic National Geographic travel photographer roaming the world seeing beautiful places, meeting new people, having an ongoing vacation. Yes, that happens, and when it does it’s magical (I’m not a National Geographic photographer – but for an ideao f what it’s like check out this short video about NatGeo photographer Joel Sartore, and his full length video called “At Close Range”). Most of the time, it’s simply work, background stuff. Especially these days when I’m doing all my own marketing, image processing, accounting, doing shows, in addition to being in the field shooting.

Being a professional is not about how much you spent on equipment. It’s not about your level of education, how much you charge, whether you are full time or part time, if you have a studio or work out of your house, although these things can contribute to the appearance of professionalism. It’s the level of commitment you choose which meets or exceeds the minimum standards for whatever industry/career you’re in.

If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, go out and sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures. Sweep streets like Handel and Beethoven composed music. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say, here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

Scotland : Senses & Perception, Round 2

My Kickstarter campaign is coming to a close on Monday morning. I’m about 1/3 funded, but if it’s not 100% at 11:00am Monday, unless there’s a furious and exciting rally this weekend, it won’t matter. I’ve set it up as an all-or-nothing campaign.

But, here’s round 2:

A day ago I launched a campaign on Indiegogo.com so it will be available once this campaign ends. I set it up using their flexible funding option which means I will receive whatever funds are submitted. It’s not all-or-nothing. I’ve reduced the funding goal and the number of reward levels to reflect the popularity of reward levels for this campaign. The items in each reward have not changed. If you’ve contributed to Kickstarter at a certain level, that level and reward (perk) is also on Indiegogo and you can choose it again.

When the kickstarter campaign ends on Monday, if you would like to continue to support this project, you can go to the Indiegogo campaign and renew your pledge at the level you would like and it will take effect. It’s also set up to be able to go over the $3000 goal. If that happens, the same upgrades apply – better paper, more pages, larger format book, depending on the amount over the goal. The deadline for that project is April 28. I’d like to point out that you will need to click on the perk level to “officially” contribute at that level and so I know which perks to create for you. There is a “Contribute Now” field at the top where you can contribute any amount, but that contribution is not associated with any perk items.

When you contribute to the campaign on Indiegogo, you can use a credit card through the gateway, Apple Pay (US card holders only) or PayPal (you can use the Guest checkout to avoid needing a PayPal account), or your PayPal balance. Your credit card or PayPal account will be charged immediately after you complete the checkout process, not at the end of the campaign.
I don’t want you to go there now if you’ve already pledged on Kickstarter, just in case there is a rally. I really don’t want you to be charged twice. So, wait until Monday after 12:00 to make any contributions at Indiegogo. Though I think you can cancel your pledge on Kickstarter prior to the end of the campaign if you want to make the leap earlier.

A second option is to directly contribute to the project through PayPal. This avoids the processing fee Indiegogo charges so your contribution is maximized. My PayPal account name is man@blueplanetphoto.com. If you choose that option, please indicate your contribution is for Scotland and what reward level when you check out. I also recommend waiting for this direct contribution until after noon on Monday. Just in case.

Whichever option you choose, I thank you for your continued support.

Scotland : Senses & Perception Kickstarter Project

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/mikeshipman/scotland-senses-and-perception

Today I launched a Kickstarter project to create a photo book (and other rewards) about how our senses & perceptions influence our photography and art (not just for photographers), showcasing the stunning and mysterious landscape of Scotland, which I’ll be visiting this summer.

Rewards for backing this project range from postcards mailed from Scotland, photographic prints, one-on-one photography instruction time with me, an 80+ page signed and numbered limited edition hardcover book, to a 4-day Idaho photo trip.

Please have a look at the project and support it if you can, at whatever level. If you can pass it on to your friends and any others who would be interested, I would appreciate it. Thank you!

Project Backers to date

A thank you to the supporters of this project. Unfortunately, it did not get fully funded. I initiated a second round at Indiegogo.com, and set it up to receive all funds contributed. I’ve detailed that effort in another post.

Steve
Michael Rolig
Barbara McClain
James Bishop
Betty and Ken Rodgers
David Young
Robert Vestal and Jyl Hoyt
Ben and Marcia Cartledge
Michael D. Margulies
Linda Lantzy
Marcia Morris
Bader Alawadhi
Diane Ronayne
Shari Hart
James R Cummins
Connie Gibbons
Kathleen Fitzgerald
Clarence H King III
Leslie & Gary Green