Saturday, November 29, 2008

Who’s getting old?

Human age keeps puzzling me, you know. Told you before that kids take a full cat’s life to stand on their own feet. But adults are strange too. They do have an age, but it makes no sense. Some guy are –say- 20 and leave the impression of an old man. Others are going on 40 and are young and playful like a one-year-old. Cat, that is. It made me wonder, you know? And again, I chose the philosophical approach.

Have you ever noted how a baby only recognizes the 20 cm around it? One year later, it recognizes an entire room and at 4, a kid has some knowledge of the street it lives in. At 16, a kid uses its entire city or region to live in. Adults spread their activities more and more, some travel around the world as if distances don’t exist. And then, by the end of their lives, they start retreating. In their villages at first, then in their nursing homes. At last, they will stay in their room, and even hardly get out of bed.

It’s similar with friends. A baby has no friends, a toddler may have a couple, and a kid has a classroom full. In college and university, new friends are made easily and some working adults have so-called social networks. Then comes the parenting stage, again meeting new people, parents to other kids, and so on and so on. But then, let’s look at the elderly again. Their old friends die one by one, and they hardly ever make any new ones. The number reduces, call it countdown if you want to.

The pattern is clear. Both in space and in number of friends. People start with nothing. And they end up with next to nothing too. In between, people have lots of space and friends. Low at one end, low at the other end, high in the middle. Doesn’t that sound like some kind of parabola? And parabola’s have a top bit, right? At this point, the increase turns into a decrease. And that, rather than your age, defines whether you’re getting old or not.

Let me give you the bottom line: As long as the size of your world and your social network increase, you’re young. Once they start stabilizing, start to worry. You’re heading towards the downward sloping part. Your world gets smaller, the number of friends decreases: you are getting old, no matter what your age is.

It’s just a matter of logic.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Modeling tips: Be confident

Confidence. If anything is important for models, confidence is. Without it, you won’t get far, no matter how pretty or talented you are. True, most people that are talented, become confident because of their talent. But this is not always true. For some, it’s easier than for others. Luckily, confidence can be trained, and this article may help you training it.

Kill that parrot
Did you know you have a parrot on your shoulder? The silly bird keeps telling you what other people think about you and he does so in a very negative voice. And you know what? The parrot is wrong 99% of the time. If your hair is a little bit out of shape for instance, the parrot will tell you that people think you look ridiculous. Wrong. Most people are far too busy with their own little problems to notice the minor things about your hair. Other people may notice it, but still think you look good, and yet other people might even like your new hairdo. Get rid of that parrot, stop worrying about what other people might think.

Fool yourself
Your mind does not know the difference between imagination and real things. You can use that. Act as-if you were confident. Ask yourself how you would walk if you were confident, ask yourself how you would talk if you were confident. Act like that and you will become confident. Keep telling yourself you can do it. Sounds silly, doesn’t it? But it works, try it, you’ll be surprised.

Stand tall and smile
You can do the same in body language. Stand with your feet slightly apart, take a deep breath and keep that position, straighten your back and neck. Now you look confident. And if you look confident, you’ll feel confident. People will treat you as if you were confident, thus building your confidence even further. Stop thinking this looks silly, it doesn’t. That’s just the parrot talking. Once you stand tall, put a smile on your face. Not a frozen one, just smile to people you pass by every now and then. Smiling people look better and get smiles in return, making you feel even better. And remember, smiles are free.

Face your fears
Are you nervous about something in particular? Ask yourself “What’s the worst that could happen?”. Just go out and do it. Overcoming fear is the ultimate boost for your confidence. Defeat your fears, and you’ll feel inconvincible.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Photography tips: self portraits

Self portraits are among the most difficult and most rewarding types of photography. It provides you with an extremely patient model, capable of understanding all your problems and prepared to try all kinds of lighting setups and crazy ideas. He or she may not be particularly pretty or very experienced in posing, but will make up for it with flexibility, perseverance and dedication. And all of that for free, your model won’t even ask for prints. It does however require some skills and a lot of practice to get decent results from self portraits.

The basics are the same as in the case of standard portraiture. Lighting, composition and expressions work out similar as in the case of photographing someone else. Likewise, self portraits require the same post processing steps as normal portraits, provided they are the same type of portraits.

Use a tripod
Here’s a pretty obvious tip: use a tripod. Yes, you can hold your camera at arm’s length and in some cases, this will yield a great self portrait. In most cases, it will only limit your possibilities. If you don’t have a tripod, put it on top of your wish list. It will open up a new world for you. In the meantime use something that’s sturdy and horizontal and has the required height.

Use a dummy
Once you’ve put your camera on the tripod, put a dummy in the place where you will be when shooting the portrait. Autofocus on the dummy, the set your camera or lens to manual focus and don’t move the camera. When ready, replace the dummy by yourself. Use a timer or a remote to trigger the shutter.

Make it a little easier on yourself
Getting decent self portraits is hard enough as it is, so why not make it a little easier on yourself. First of all, frame the picture a little wider than you normally would. This gives you room to crop the picture afterwards if you weren’t in the exact position you should be. Likewise, do not use very wide apertures. If you do, your depth of field becomes small, and your exact position will become a very critical factor. Using a smaller aperture (higher f) will literally give you some breathing space.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Minor update of CamerA AbsurdA

I recently did a major rehaul of my online portfolio CamerA AbsurdA, but didn´t add a `about`-section at that time. Now I did. The section also includes a couple of self portraits, including a brand new one, 'Loud Guy'. So, go check it out comments welcome.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Modeling tips: care for your lips

Lips are important to models. Well-shaped and well-groomed lips can make a lasting impression and add to your sex-appeal. At the same time, lips are among the most exposed areas of your skin and very vulnerable at the same time. Your lips need good care, and it’s you who should provide it. The good thing is, it does not have to be expensive to be good.

Protect them
Lips need protection from the world around them, especially from heat, cold, sunburn and dry air. Petroleum jelly or Vaseline is a great and inexpensive protector and healer of dry skin in general and lips in particular. Use an old toothbrush to gently rub in the Vaseline a couple of times a day if you want to heal dried lips. You may want to mix the Vaseline with one or two tablespoons of a tasty (sweet or fresh) sauce, to enhance the flavor. For summer holidays or winter sports, use a lip balm with a high sun protection factor, as lips tend to burn badly in the sun.

Caress them
Want to give your lips a good time? Mash a quarter of a ripe papaya to a juicy paste. Lie down on a towel and apply a generous amount to the lips and the skin around the lips. Leave it on for 10 to 15 minutes. Next rinse the paste off and apply Vaseline or lip balm. The exfoliating enzymes in papaya help to soften and refine lip lines.

Make them work for you
When applying lipstick, use a brush. It provides a more even distribution and will reduce the amount of lipstick used. Before applying your lipstick, apply foundation on the lips or use a lip liner. This prevents the lipstick from 'bleeding'.

If you have big lips, colors like purple, brown and bronze will look good on you. If you want to make them look smaller, make use of deep colors. They make the lips recede. Shiny lipstick on the other hand will accentuate the size of your lips. If your lips are small, apply a bit of lip gloss or Vaseline on the middle part of the bottom lip, and use light colors. This make your lips look bigger.

More tips

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

On monogamy

Okay. I'm keeping an old promise here. And it's my pleasure. Monogamy and people is one of the most exciting philosophical issues I can think of. Sit down and make yourself comfortable, this is going to be a long article. You seated? Mmmmkay, let's go then.

Some animals are monogamous, and some are not. Some birdies live together till death (or a cat) do them part. Other species, such as cats, don’t give a rat’s ass and mate whenever they feel the need, with whoever is around. Needless to say, that’s the evolutionary successful strategy, as sexual diversity prevents inbreeding. But then again, swans and the like are still on this earth, so there must be something right about monogamy too.

But now for humans. Humans have a very ambiguous attitude towards monogamy. They do practice it, well most of them do, but they are hardly consistent. And I know why. Let’s first state the obvious: people cubs are awfully weak creatures. It takes them more than a year to even learn to walk. Well, more or less, wiggle would be a more appropriate description. What kind of evolutionary strategy is that? More than a year of immobility! I had a litter of eleven at my first birthday.

Hmmmm, well, that may not be a very good example, but you get my point, right? It takes humans a full cat’s life to even become an independent being. That’s where the human male comes in. I mean, raising a litter in, say, 8 weeks is easy. A female will have no trouble doing that on her own, right? But 18 years is a different cup-a-tea. A woman needs a day off every now and then. And protection for her helpless cubs. So, human females need the human male to stay around. And that requires monogamy, since human males can not stay around at two families at the same time.

Now that we have explained why humans are monogamous, let’s see why they deviate from their evolutionary successful behavior. Here’s why. The evolutionary successful behavior does not require the male (or the female) to be around all of the time. As long as a human does not have two full families, it’s okay. And then you guys invented birth control. With birth control, humans can lead the family life of a swan, and have the sex life of a cat at the same time. Or even that of a rabbit for that matter. And that’s where it all comes together. Humans are monogamous because they have to and inconsistent because they can.

It's just a matter of logic.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Photography tips: skiing

Once the calendar turns to November, my heart starts beating faster. The skiing season is about to arrive. Most Europeans postpone their skiing trip to February or even March, when the sun is stronger and the days are longer. Nevertheless, the skiing season opens (if it ever closes) mid-November in high stations, such as Tux, Tignes and Val Thorens. That’s why November makes my heart beat faster, though this year I will have to wait ‘till mid-December to actually go there.

If you ever went on a skiing trip and took your camera, you might know how frustrating it can be. These majestic mountains, the steep slope you just managed to ski down from. They scream to be photographed, but once you get home, the magic’s gone. In fact, the magic is left behind in the mountains, not on the pictures. The mountains do not look so majestic, that slope does not look half as steep as it actually was and your superb skiing technique never shows on the pictures. Why? Because photographing snowy mountains is not as easy as it seems. These tips might help though.

White balance
First of all, get your white balance right. That’s the easiest tip, and you can actually do it in post processing if you shoot in RAW. If you don’t, the snow will look blueish, not white. Other things will look off too and you'll loose contrast.

Time of day
Like with any type of photography, choose the right time of day, which is either early morning or late afternoon. Don't try shooting at midday, the high sun will flatten all detail, especially since things are all white anyway.
This is a general tip for landscape photography. Try to have some points of reference in the picture, prefereably in the front and the back. This makes it easier for the viewer to relate. This picture (click it for a larger version on Flickr)shows some loose snow in the front and rocks in the back, as well as the boundary of the slope. The latter gives the viewer a clear indication of how steep the slope really is.
Skiing is a sport and in sport photography, timing is everything. And to time right at sports, you have to know the sport. Shooting exactly in the middle of turn is not going to give a great skiing picture, nor is shooting at a straight end. Breaking and finishing a turn are nice moments in term of spectacular snow clouds, whereas the body position is great at the start of a turn. Obviously, jumps are also great moments to shoot, not matter if they go right or wrong.
Get down!
Choose a low angle, both for skiers and for mountains. Low angles will make slopes look steeper, will make mountains look higher and will make jumps and other actions much more impressive. It will also allow you more often to get some sky in your picture, providing the much wanted contrast of the bright blue against the clear white, especially if you use a polarizer.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Modelling tips: plan your career (3)

Part 1 of this series was about making plans, part 2 about checking on them. Part 3 of planning your career is about deviating from your plans. This happens more often than not. In fact, plans sometimes seem to be made to be able to deviate from them. Why? Because plans involve the future, and the future is intrinsically unpredictable. Things can happen. Good things, bad things, things you never thought of. And if they happen, it may be wise to deviate from your plans.

Say you planned to start your career on the catwalk. Maybe later, you were thinking, you were going to switch to magazines. Then a magazine comes along, wanting to hire you for an editorial. Will you refuse because it doesn’t fit your plan? No you won’t. Assess the offer, and if it is any good, forget about the plan: deviate! If this happens once or twice, it’s okay to deviate, while in the meantime following the plan as, well, planned. If it occurs more often, you’ll have to think about changing the plan. You just might be more fit for magazines than for catwalks. Or maybe you are not, but coincidence has granted you a head start in magazines and you should grab the opportunity.

How will you know when to deviate from your plans and when to change them? You won’t. There is no such thing as a golden rule here. You can ask other models and photographers around you what they think, but remember that they will give you opinions rather than facts. On the other hand, if five or six experienced people share the same opinion, it might as well be a good one. If you’re with an agency, go ask them. They know a lot, and your interest is their interest. Unless of course, you are with a catwalk-specialized agency. After collecting the opinions, make a choice. It may not be the right choice, but you’ll have to make one. It’s no use waiting for the ‘right’ information to come by, because you’ll never have enough information. Besides, the ‘right’ information has the peculiarity of coming buy after you made your decision. It always does.

A couple of common-sense issues should be kept in mind though. If you’ve invested heavily in a catwalk career and it hasn’t paid off, ask yourself why. Is catwalk the right choice for you? Is it just too early for pay offs? Do you expect pay offs in the near future? Do they outweigh the benefits of switching to magazines? No easy answers here, I’m sorry. When in doubt, it’s okay to follow two tracks for say two, three months. If your catwalk pay efforts do not pay off in these months, or if magazines keep approaching you, you’ll know what to do. Don’t stay on two tracks for too long though, dividing your attention may distort your focus.