When is Your Creative Zone?

Windmills at Sunset in Pawnee Butte

Windmills at Sunset in Pawnee Butte

We all have Circadian rhythms or body cycles that are tuned specifically to us…whether you identify that as being a morning person or a night owl.  This also applies to your creative rituals too though.  Because our body clocks all operate on a unique pattern of restfulness and alertness, we have different times when we are the most creative.  Our mind is able to focus on creative ideas and energies, and the distractions of the rest of the world aren’t nearly as distracting.  The windmills are out there and we tilt away at them with every fiber of energy!  Do you know when your creative zone occurs?

For me, that time often comes right around midnight.  If I am not too sleepy, or I power through the initial desire to just go to bed, my mind suddenly becomes much clearer, my vision focuses, and I get so much done from my creative space, it’s kind of eerie.  Tracy woke up once to find my literally typing a million miles a minute…the thoughts couldn’t get out of my brain fast enough.  After about 3-4 hours of it though, my entire body just shuts down.  The exciting thing though, is that I’ve been able to identify this creative zone.  I know if I need to get some writing done, or some post production work on photos, or anything creative – those are the hours when I get the most accomplished.

We’re all different though, some people have this rush of creativity in the morning, or in the middle of meals or other activities.  I’ve talked to so many people who still are unsure of when they really are at their creative best.  When people attend workshops and get immersed in a creative world, the ideas flow much more naturally.  The same holds for conferences, seminars, and any type of learning environment.  It’s like the mind knows that other creatives are around and the energy for learning and expression is much higher than what we are normally exposed to.  The trick comes in being able to identify when your creative zone normally happens when you are in that daily routine.  Is it right when you wake up?  After that first cup of coffee?  Right before you go to bed at night?  Or is it on those sleepless nights at 2am when your creative juices just start flowing?

When is your creative zone?

Testing Some Gear


Some new gear got dropped off on Friday…just in time for me to do a little real world field testing with it on Sunday!  I was invited to share ten seconds of excitement with Michelle Hedstrom when the US Bike Pro Circuit came through town.  Not only was her house extremely close to the route, we got a chance to catch up since we last chatted on the podcast.  She’s got quite the keen eye, as we walked down the street I gleaned useful and valuable nuggets on shooting sports photography.  One such tip is that with bicycling, it’s always good to capture them as they are coming into or going out of a curve to get the angled view that is always popular.  She also used a tried and true practice of finding an area to get our own unique brand of photography – away from the rest of the folks that had set up about half a mile further down the road.  We had the area mostly to ourselves!  Her husband Leif came along too, and got some second shooter shots to add to their portfolio.

Since we weren’t shooting in any sort of “official” capacity, i figured it’d be a good time to kick the tires on this new lens (sorry, can’t reveal it just yet).  Suffice to say, I was not thrilled with the shots.  As luck would have it, I had swapped out between my 70-200 Canon and this lens right before the race, and inadvertently left my 1.4 TC on.  The end result was that the shots were just “off”.  The entire ten second scene was exciting to watch, and a few great shots presented themselves to me, but because of the gear selection and conditions – I got nuthin’!

However, always with education in my mind, this was a great story for two reasons.  First and foremost – it’s a reminder that if you are shooting an important event, always shoot with tried and true gear you know, and have had positive results with before.  Second, it’s always a good idea when testing new gear to try it in various configurations to make sure you know what you are getting before your return period expires.  Imagine if you purchased a lens, had enjoyed it, then past the return window, you decided to then test it with accessory items like a TC, only to get less performance than you expected. Oh well, chalk it up to an expensive mistake (glass is never cheap, and even good glass can not work for your particular style of shooting!).

As sort of a bonus tip, I also learned that when shooting sports, always keep your aperture above the minimum for a couple reasons.  First, a deeper depth of field will give a better sense of place, and second, if your focus is even slightly off and you happen to be shooting at a higher number, the chances of getting at least part of the scene in focus is better than if you shoot like I did – at 1.4!  While I normally don’t share bad shots – in this case, it’s helping to serve as an example of what not to do:


As you can see, nothing is really in focus, and my suspicion is that it was due to the presence of the TC as further studio testing produced results consistent with what I would normally expect without the TC.  And with the TC, the oof results also continued in studio – with a lot of difficulty in even achieving focus on objects unless the contrast was especially evident.  Even then, it jiggled a lot betwenn two focusing points, so the lesson I got in all of this is that when using a __________ (thought I was gonna say it, didn’t ya?_, don’t use the TC!

Hope everyone else had a great weekend too.  What did you shoot and what were your lessons learned?  Sound off in the comments with your own thoughts, ideas, tips, and tricks!  Until tomorrow – happy shooting!

What’s New in PSU?

Light It!

The folks over at NAPP, aka Kelby Media Group, Kelby Training, etc. (in the form of venerable figures like Scott Kelby, Dave Cross, Matt K., RC Concepcion, Corey Barker, Pete Collins, et al) have long been known for their straightforward, down-to-earth approach toward helping the masses learn more about Photoshop.  Their magazine, Photoshop User Magazine is consistently in the top sellers rack whenever I go into Barnes and Noble.  (Although I do get mine through my NAPP membership).

So, why is this news?  Well, PSU Magazine isn’t news, but from the same folks that brought you PSU Magazine is an all-new digital magazine – and it’s not about Photoshop!  It’s taken on the subject of photography – specifically lighting, and tackling it all in one magazine.  I got a chance to sit down with it last night and really dig my teeth into it.  (And you can too for free, the first issue is free for all here).

Light It!

Here’s my initial thoughts:

1.  Big:  It’s a big file, about a 350MB download.  Since it’s designed with the iPad in mind, I was a little surprised that the footprint was so large.  I guess it’s to be expected since it did have lots of imagery, and even video embedded in it, so there’s no way in getting around that for the first issue.  My advice though – decrease this size for future issues…the last thing someone wants from a digital magazine is for it to take up 10-20% of my iPad space over just a single year (250MB x 12 months = 3000 MB or 3GB)!

2.  Ads:  I get it, magazines need ads in order to be revenue producing.  And this is no exception – about 20% of the content is ad space.  A good portion of the ads though, are for off-shoots of the Kelby group.  Whether it’s Photoshop World, Kelby Training, or other ventures, a good 50% of the ad space was devoted to their own content promotion.  If I know about your magazine, odds are that I already know about your training, and I can’t help but know about Photoshop World.  While this one is free, if the same kind of ads start appearing in the paid subscription ones, I’d not be thrilled to be paying for them to advertise in their own product and services lines to me again.

Who Makes Light It Magazine?

3.  Content:  The be-all, end-all of the magazine is the quality of content right?  Right.  Okay, here’s the articles that grabbed me right off the bat:

Larry Becker’s DIY Corner – Easy to understand, well put together, and an immediate grasp of why this is helpful – it saves me money!  I like that!

Larry Becker DIY

5 Different Looks From a Single Softbox by Zack Arias – Hands down, the best article in this inaugural issue.  Showing how the same light source can achieve such drastically different looks all depending on position, angle, and posing.

5 Different Looks w/ Zack Arias

Behind the Lens with  Joe McNally – I have to admit, that when people flock to a certain personality, I tend to run in the opposite direction, and the masses have been flocking to Joe McNally for a while now.  This is probably the one exception primarily because he is, undoubtedly, very talented behind the lens, and knows off-camera flash inside and out.  I tend to gravitate toward his content though, not because of his knowledge base, but because of his teaching style. So, an opportunity to read more of his instruction (and for free), was exciting.

Joe McNally in Light It!

But to be honest, the draw of this article wasn’t the text content, because I don’t think Joe even wrote it.  In fact, it was more just a bio and a couple of shots (which I’ve already seen in his other venues).  So, why did I like the piece?  For the video content!  For the first time, it’s nice to get a video in a digital magazine!  Pretty sweet to be able to tap the video thumbnail and watch the video right there in your hands!  And there were two of them! (Although why they were split into two, I have no idea – maybe the chance to show me the Kelby media ads twice?)

I was a tad disappointed there even though, because the videos were kind of “fluff-y”.  In ten minutes (3 minutes then 7 minutes):

  • Question #1 – “If you only had one modifier, what would it be?”
  • Answer – Something small light and cheap!
  • Question #2 – “What would your next modifier be?”
  • Answer: A small cheap 8′ lightstand
  • Question #3 – “What’s the advantage of TTL?”
  • Answer:  It automates measuring light for you.
  • Question #4 – “What’s the tipping between small flash and studio strobes?”
  • Answer:  The space you are shooting in, or for appearances on high profile jobs.
  • Question #5 – “Where can people find out more about you?”
  • Answer:  His blog, website, and social media


Last but not least, the layout here does merit a tad bit of discussion.  First in that area, I liked how the magazine reads by flipping left to right, just like a regular magazine.  I also liked how you could tap an article in the TOC and it would go straight to that article.  The larger res photos on a double-tap were nice features too, as was the video inclusion (just don’t make the questions such softball ones again, take a page from Ibarionex approach when he interviewed Scott on  The Candid Frame).

While the ads were not my favorite part, one thing that I think was very cool was that when you tapped on them, a page opened up for the vendor website inside the magazine!  That’s pretty slick!

So,  the bottom line here (which I think we all are likely asking), is whether or not this is something worth buying.  The answer (surprise surprise), is “It depends…”

For me, the two key variables will be cost and content.


With the exception of Zack’s article, these first pieces were light, brief articles that didn’t really wade hip-deep into much.  With the great equalizer of the web, where so many people are producing valuable content and rich learning experiences for a low cost (or even free), paying for the privilege of basic lighting info and photographer interviews with softball questions is not something I would be prone to doing.  Money is already tight.


So, what would I pay for this?  Probably – I like that you don’t have to get a full year subsscription, and can buy them on an individual basis.  Each one will go for  $3 (they are calling it $2.99 though, that sounds better to consumers…).  I just hope that you can preview the table of contents on future issues before buying.  Some people I like to read, and others, not as much.  There are features in my PSU magazine that get read instantly, and others I never even glance at.  I think it’s a little high, but understand there’s some overhead, although it’s not as much as you’d think…

Keep in mind, distribution cost used to be the biggest barrier to market and since distribution is free (for the most part anyway), the only real overhead anymore is bandwidth.  Of course, they could also have costs rolled in for contributing authors too, but I can’t speak to that.  Although, with that in mind – if Kelby Media asked me to write an article for their magazine, would I want to charge them for that?  Hmmmmm…….

Don’t get me wrong though – I really liked the stable of authors, and even know some of them personally (hey Mr. Groupp! 🙂 ) And it is an impressive list for sure:  Zack Arias, Frank Doorhof, Erik Valind, Jeremy Cowart, Jim Schmelzer, Joe McNally, Tom Bol, and Jason Groupp are fantastic photogs and with great insights and experiences

What about you?  Have you read the magazine yet?  If not, at least get the free one here.  What are your thoughts?  What would you pay for this annually?  What would you pay per issue?  Did you like the articles?  Were they thought-provoking and inspiring?  Sound off below! 🙂

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