The Photographer Blues

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All photographers experience what I call the  “Photographer Blues” every now and again. It’s that feeling that our photos  aren’t good enough. One component is what is called “Photographer Envy”. That’s when you look at the work of other photographers and feel that your work is inferior. It’s completely natural to look at other photographers and compare your work to theirs. You shouldn’t however become despondent but rather become motivated. Remember, there will always be someone that’s better than you. Try and be the best that you can be. Don’t try and be someone else.
This is not a tutorial on how to become a good photographer, but a few tips to help you improve.

Take more time

I know many photographers who just aim and shoot. You don’t get the best shots by being in a hurry or not thinking it through. Unlike other advice, I would say shoot LESS not MORE. Be more selective. Take more time. Don’t hurry. I know some photographers that shoot 500 frames with the hope that a few of them will be good. Well that is like shooting a shotgun and hoping you hit something. A good photographer will rather walk away from a mediocre opportunity than trying to squeeze something out of it. If it’s the right opportunity you will know it.
Good opportunities are few and far between. Stop trying to think that every shot has to be an award-winning shot. It doesn’t work that way.

Plan your shots properly

You can’t just aim and shoot and think you’re going to get a great shot. It just doesn’t work that way. Getting a good shot is not “luck”. If the light is not right, don’t shoot. Come back at another time. Plan you angles and do a few test shots first. Look at the result and if it’s not right then do it again.

Shoot multiple exposures

Shoot the same shot with multiple exposures. Even the best photographer don’t get it right all the time. When you get back to the PC you can look at all the exposures and choose the right one or combine them when you edit. This way you won’t be disappointed that you got the exposure wrong. Remember, it’s always better to get the best possible exposure with the shot than trying to fix it afterwards.

Don’t shoot RAW

I find shooting RAW a waste of time. The gain in quality and editing capability is so small that it just doesn’t justify the editing time. Streamline your workflow to give you more time to do a professional editing job.

Almost ALL unedited shots look crap

A camera just doesn’t capture what you see effectively. If you look at the unedited shots of professional photographers you will be shocked how similar they look to yours! You need to see the potential in a shot, but that potential is only realized in the edit.

It’s all in the Edit

Ye it’s true. It’s all about the edit. I would say that 70% of the final product is in the editing. Don’t skimp on the time to edit. Don’t skimp on software and learn the tools of the trade. I spend 1 minute taking the shot and 2 hours editing. The camera today is actually a very small part of the end product.
You need Photoshop. Don’t even think about it. There is nothing that beats Photoshop, ok? Got it?
You need lots of Photoshop Actions. These are plugins that automate post processing. Many are free, but the really good ones cost money. Invest in a few really good Actions. It makes everything so much easier and faster.

Learn, learn, learn

We all know about aperture, shutter speed, ISO etc. That’s the easy stuff. You need to learn about cross processing, levels, HDR and all the other cool stuff you can do with your images during the edit.

Ask People

Don’t be afraid to ask people around you if they think your photos are cool. You will soon judge their reactions. If they flip out then it’s good. If they smile nicely and tell you it’s very nice, then it’s crap. Go back to the drawing board and do it again.

Save you PSD files

Always keep the layered PSD files safe. I think I have gone back to my old photos a thousand times to re do some of them. Especially if you get some new actions or learn a new trick. Then you can take that old, mediocre photo and turn it into something special.

Benchmark

Submit your photos to something like Pixoto. The community votes for the best photos and it gives a quick and fairly objective indication if your photo is special or not. There are many flaws with the system but I only use it as a fairly crude bench marking tool to identify those images that are truly special and have potential.

Develop a style

You need your own style. That’s the most difficult part. If you’re just like everyone else then your photos won’t stand out. I can’t help you with that unfortunately. It’s something you will discover after many, many years of practice. But if you keep going, then you will get there and one day, people will start to recognize your photos. That’s when you have arrived. Until then, keep trying!

How to clean your Dishwasher and Washing Machine

Dishwasher2Here is a simple and easy-to-do method to clean your dishwasher and washing machine.

Washing Machine

  1. Mix ¼ cup water and ¼ cup baking soda.
  2. Pour into the detergent container of machine
  3. Pour 2 cups vinegar into the drum
  4. Set washing machine to normal and hot cycle.

 

Dishwasher

  1. Pour 1 cup vinegar into a container and place in the dishwasher
  2. Run the dishwasher on a hot cycle
  3. Remove container and sprinkle 1 cup baking soda on the bottom of the machine
  4. Run the dishwasher on a short and hot cycle

 

 

The Secret of Happy Relationships

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I am unashamedly happy.

I say ‘unashamedly’ because sometimes we are made to feel as if were not allowed to be happy. With all the unhappy people around us we are made to feel guilty about our own happiness – as if it’s our fault that we’re happy, and that by showing and expressing our happiness, we are somehow bragging or attempting to make other people feel bad about their circumstances.

What a crock of nonsense. It’s peoples own weltschmerz that is defining their perceptions about happy people. Their reality is defined by their distorted view of ‘how things should be’, instead of the reality that nothing is ever perfect. No relationship is perfect and no person is perfect. That ‘perfect’ partner that you fantasize about does not exists, sorry. Maybe in a Disney movie, but not here on earth.

So what makes a couple happy? What are the ingredients for happiness in a relationship?

  1. RespectRespect for yourself firstly, and then respect for your partner. Many people respect their partners but not themselves. When you look in the mirror what do you see? Someone that your partner can respect? Someone that your partner can look up to and be proud of? If not, then you have to become respectable. If you don’t then it means you don’t respect your partner.
  2. Be the person you want your partner to beStop trying to change your partner. Just be what you want your partner to be. Be the kind of person that he or she would look up to and respect. Stop trying to change your partner. Stop trying to live your life vicariously through your partner. Look inward first, before you look outward.
  3. Unconditional loveBig words, but very important. Unconditional love means just that. It’s not some meme on Facebook. It’s real. But what does it mean? It means that you love your partner with all their faults and shortcomings. You love without condition and demands.

    You love them for who they are, not for what you want them to become.

  4. Learn to spend time with yourselfBoy oh boy, but some people can be demanding. They are so scared to be left alone that they can only be happy if they are the center of attention. It’s because they cannot stand being in their own company. Find a hobby or read a book. Go for long walks – alone. Learn to spend time with yourself because if you can’t then your partner will be smothered and suffocated by your constant needyness. Space and time is very important in a relationship. You need to be able to do your own thing, and you need to be able to give your partner the time and space to be alone.

    If your happiness is dependent on the attention you get, your relationship will fail.

  5. Don’t sweat the small stuffHave you ever seen these small arguments start? Perhaps about the dirty spoon that was left on the table? It starts as a banal argument and then escalates into a full-blown nuclear war. Thinking back on all the arguments, almost all of them started with stupid, insignificant disagreements. Almost all of them escalated into the third world war. This can easily be avoided by not sweating the small stuff. It takes two to tango and one person can not have an argument on their own. It’s your choice if you want to participate in the fight or not.

    Ask yourself this question when the tensions rise: “Will it make any difference in my life if I don’t argue about this?”

  6. Laugh and laugh and then laugh some moreLaughter cures everything. You can’t be unhappy while laughing. Make each other laugh, often. Be silly. Be spontaneous.
  7. Your partner must be your best friendI think this is the most important aspect of a happy relationship. If your partner is your best friend then you will be able to spend time in each others company without getting bored. Friendship in a partnership is more important than love. Love means nothing if you’re not best friends. Best friends talk about everything and anything.

    Best friends forgive and make up, they don’t get divorced.

 

72 Virgin Mystery Solved

IMG_0259For centuries the mystery of the 72 virgins have kept academics and scholars busy. Why would someone become a martyr for 72 virgins? The real question is whether 72 shags are worth dying for.

In an attempt to get answers for this perplexing question, scientists have enlisted the help of politicians, catholic priests, lawyers and various other professionals to screw as many virgins as possible. The results were not conclusive and in almost all cases the participants were unsatisfied.

The biggest problem was the fact that there are only 72 virgins after all. What happens after the 72nd one has been screwed?  Many scholars believe that the actual act of copulation with these virgins is not the real motivation for someone to blow themselves up. 

A brilliant young South African academic by the name of Piet Wolmerans has come up with an alternative theory. After spending his entire life in a small town in the Northern Cape called Hotazel (Hot as Hell), Piet realised that the real reason why these fanatics blow themselves up is to get away from the blistering heat. In fact he has witnessed a number of locals self-immolate.

1e01b6693888ec6aad8a1d18db51d78aThe 72 virgins, according to Piet is not for fucking, but to fan the martyr. 72 fans are infinitely more attractive than 72 once off sexual encounters, Piet postulates. He’s attempting to prove his theory by erecting a number of large outdoor fans in Hatazel to see if the number of self-immolations will decrease.

Women’s Rights And Religion

Women’s Rights And Religion

I am always amused at people saying that their religion gives women rights or that women have equal rights to men. I am particularly referring to Islam and Christianity. The arrogance of it all astounds me. In the first pace, every person, including women are born free. Religion does not “give” women rights, it takes rights away. It amazes me how easily religious texts can be misinterpreted, even though the simplicity of it’s writing makes its intention patently obvious. I can understand when people misinterpret the writings of Nostradamus because that was written in code. Nostradamus was trying to hide the real meaning of his writings to prevent being persecuted.

The religious books such as the Bible or the Koran are not written in code. It was written in such a way to make it clear and obvious so that everyone could understand it. The prophet Muhammad had nothing to gain from being vague in his teachings.

Every time there is a discussion about the Koran I wonder to myself how many versions of the Koran are out there because these people are clearly reading a different version to what I have read. The Koran is really not difficult to understand. The only explanation that I can find for these varying interpretations of something that is obviously clear, is that people refuse to acknowledge the truth. That would mean that they will start doubting and questioning the faith entirely, so it’s easier to either ignore some parts or purposefully change the facts to suit their agenda.

For example the debate over womens’ rights and Islam. I have seen Sheikhs on TV proclaiming that Islam has given women rights and that women are essentially free under Islam. I have even seen female Muslims claiming that under Islam women have rights.

The interesting thing is that they are essentially right. Women have some rights under Islam. If you start from the premise that women had no rights before Islam, then it will be true to say that Islam gave women some rights.

If, however you start from the premise that women were free before Islam, then Islam in fact took away most of their rights.

From the Koran:

2:228 “(Women) have rights similar to those (of men) over them in kindness, and men are a degree above them.”

2:282 “And call two witness from among your men, two witnesses. And if two men be not at hand, then a man and two women.”

4:3 “Marry of the women, who seem good to you, two or three or four.”

4:11 “To the male the equivalent of the portion of two females, and if there be women more than two, then theirs is two-thirds of the inheritance, and if there be one (only) then the half.”

4:15 “As for those of your women who are guilty of lewdness, call to witness four of you against them. And if they testify (to the truth of the allegation) then confine them to the houses until death take them.”

40:20 “And if ye wish to exchange one wife for another….”

4:34 “Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them.”

4:176 “Unto the male is the equivalent of the share of two females.”

24:31 “And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to display of their adornment only that which is apparent, and to draw their veils over their bosoms, and not to reveal their adornment save to their own husbands. … And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment.”

33:30 “O ye wives of the Prophet! Whosoever of you committeth manifest lewdness, the punishment for her will be doubled, and that is easy for Allah.”

33:32-33 “O ye wives of the Prophet! Ye are not like any other women. … Stay in your houses.”

33:53 “When ye ask of them (the wives of the Prophet) anything, ask it of them from behind a curtain. That is purer for your hearts and for their hearts. And it is not for you to cause annoyance to the messenger of Allah, nor that ye should ever marry his wives after him. Lo! that in Allah’s sight would be an enormity.”

33:59 “O Prophet! Tell thy wives and thy daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks close round them (when they go abroad).”

65:1 “O Prophet! When ye (men) put away women….”

66:5 “If he [Muhammad] divorce you, will give him in your stead wives better than you, submissive (to Allah), believing, pious, penitent, devout, inclined to fasting, widows and maids.”

The reality is that no matter how you look at it, Islam restricts womens’ rights considerably. Under Islam woman are clearly not equal to men and their movement, liberty and freedom of speech is severely curtailed.

The same goes for Christianity. Womens’ rights are also inhibited in the Bible. Quite severely in the old testament and a little less so in the new testament.

Let no Muslim or Christian ever say that their religion “gives” women freedom. You can’t give that which was not yours to give in the first place.

Cloud computing – SA in danger of being left behind

Marthinus Strydom - CIO and Marketing Director of McCarthy Motor Group

Cloud computing is a rapidly growing software service trend globally, however South Africa is in danger of being left behind.

According to Marthinus Strydom, CIO and Marketing Director, McCarthy Motor Group, “Government needs to take serious action against the companies that continue to exploit and overcharge South Africans for bandwidth.”

“As cloud computing applications become more sophisticated and utilise streaming capabilities, substantial bandwidth, sustained connectivity and reasonably priced internet is essential to maintaining business function, especially when one considers that 37% of emerging SMEs do not have internet connectivity1.”

Figures from Arthur Goldstuck’s, WorldWideWorx revealed that in 2009 only 10.8% of the South Africa population had access to the internet, and according to The Internet Society of SA (ISOC-ZA) broadband access available from Telkom, is still 286% more expensive than a comparative Egyptian service2.

“While steps in the right direction have been made by Government and the industry which will see internet and bandwidth quality improve in 2011, more needs to be done.”

“Telkom’s upgrade of the SAT3 cable and the launch of Seacom earlier this year have set the ball rolling. However, the Seacom cable is only using a fraction of its capacity because of lack of competition within the South African market and it is estimated that it will be a further 5 years before Seacom operates at capacity3.”

Strydom adds: “I disagree with many local experts who doubt that cloud computing will not become mainstream,” he adds. “The pure convenience of being able to store and access data centrally from anywhere using any device is a strong business driver.”

Cloud computing is a rapidly growing software service trend that has the ability to transfer day to day services such as email, data storage, back-ups and resource sharing onto the web. This offers South African business the opportunity to cut is operations costs significantly while leveraging off the superior infrastructures and security of established cloud computing service providers. I.e. Google, IS, Symantec etc.

“Cloud computing will allow for less pressure on company resources and business will only pay for the services they use,” adds Strydom.

As a result, South African business is hungrily pursuing cloud computing, with 26% having already deployed a software as a service security solution via the cloud/internet. According to Gartner, companies will invest $112bn in cloud computing services over the next 5 years. The move is inevitable despite concerns around safety, security and data integrity4.

“According to Gartner, global revenue from cloud computing is expected to reach $68bn by the end of the year5. Cloud computing will continue to grow and influence hardware development as ‘form follows function’. The hard drive will be replaced by the solid state drive, a superior technology but currently offers less capacity for data storage because leading markets are embracing the services cloud computing offers.”

Motor Retailers to clean up their act

Retailers must clean up their act

Unscrupulous motor retailers will need to get their act together before the implementation of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) which comes into force in April 2011. Decent and honest motor retailers will have very little to fear. It is those who have been giving the motor retail industry a bad name that will be weeded out by the CPA.

The CPA will drive more responsible motor retailing in South Africa. While I welcome the Act I believe it will take some time to implement properly and there will be some teething problems, however I am confident that it will be sorted out relatively quickly. Consumer Protection Acts in other countries has been mostly very effective. In Australia for example, retailers are very weary of the CPA and this has resulted in more responsible retailing.

Changes to contracts, point-of-sale, advertising content and sales processes will be required as well as education of staff from motor retailers but there shouldn’t be any excuses to comply.

A key component of the CPA for motor retailers is that the consumer has a right to return goods for a full refund. This is a general right and applies when the consumer receives the product and on examining it realises that the product is not that which was ordered or that which was, for example, advertised in a sales brochure.

The Act changes the way warranties and returns must be handled. If the goods are not suitable for the purpose for which they are intended, the consumer is entitled to return them at the suppliers risk and expense and without penalty and may obtain a full refund or have the item/s repaired. It provides for the right to return goods in certain circumstances. A consumer must be allowed a reasonable time to examine goods. This right means that goods can be returned to a supplier, for a full refund, in the following instances: – If the consumer could not examine the goods; – If the consumer is exercising the 5 day cooling off period provided to him for goods sold by way of direct marketing;

Deputy Manager of consumer affairs Desmond Pillay said when the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) comes into effect on 31 March 2011, “it is fair to say voetstoots would not apply in such a case”. This is thanks to the addition of an “implied warranty of quality” in the CPA, which means that any and all goods that fall within its scope must meet certain quality criteria.

In addition to common law warranties and contractual warranties, the CPA creates an implied warranty of quality for all goods.
• The producer, importer, distributor and retailer each warrant that the goods comply with the quality provisions and standards (“the requirements”) set out in the CPA.
• This is a minimum warranty for all new and used goods (excluding auctions).
• This means that within 6 months of delivery, the consumer can return goods which fail to comply with the requirements, without penalty and at the suppliers risk and expense.
• The supplier may repair or replace the goods or refund the purchase price (at the consumer’s choice).
• If the consumer opts for repair, and the defect occurs again within the next three months (or a new defect appears), then the supplier must replace the goods or refund the purchase price! This may have serious consequences for the motor industry.

And if there are any defects at all, these should be explicitly described to the buyer. If the customer in the example bought the car after the CPA came into effect, the car dealer would have to take the car back and repair any defects or give the customer his money back.

When purchasing a motor vehicle, here are some tips to watch out for:

• Make sure you understand what the total cost of the vehicle is to you. This way you will not be surprised when you have to pay.

• If it’s a used vehicle, make sure you buy it from a reputable dealer. If you are concerned about the history of the vehicle have it checked out by the AA or the like. Buy from a dealer registered at the RMI (Retail Motor Industry www.rmi.org.za).

• Make sure the vehicle has a full service history. Check the service book for all the stamps before taking delivery of the vehicle.

• If you are financing the purchase, make sure you read the contract and understand how the payments are going to work. Make sure you can afford the payments.

• Ask questions. Make sure you understand what you are getting. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

In conclusion, the CPA is good news for consumers in that they have recourse should they not receive the goods originally agreed upon or advertised, as well as for the motor retailing industry as it will force unscrupulous dealers to clean up their act.