Books, Creativity

Review: Creative Black & White Photography by Harold Davis

[easyazon-image-link asin=”0470597755″ alt=”Creative Black and White: Digital Photography Tips and Techniques” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41%2BUp%2BR-BSL._SL160_.jpg” align=”left” width=”128″ height=”160″] [easyazon-link asin=”0470597755″]Creative Black and White: Digital Photography Tips and Techniques[/easyazon-link] by Harold Davis is an excellent starting point for beginning photographers or a good reference for advanced photographers looking to learn new techniques.

Most valuable to beginners is the first section, The Monochromatic Vision. Davis clearly and concisely discusses basic photographic concepts to make a good picture. These concepts extend well beyond black and white pictures. He gives examples and considerations to take into account for each concept. Also, photographs are provided to illustrate the concept with a detailed caption of how the photo applies and technical information about it, as well.

The second section, Black and White in the Digital Era, introduces the tools and basic processing techniques for black and white photos. The tools are Adobe-centric, detailing Adobe Camera Raw conversion, Lightroom and Photoshop. These processing techniques can be found in other tools, only implemented differently. Davis emphasizes the power of RAW files and how best to work with them to get black and white images that have contrast, tones and impact.

The third section, Creative Black and White Opportunities, builds on the previous section to provide steps for effects and tricks like sepia coloring, duotones, soft focus and more. This is where Davis really shows the art in the process of processing an image. There are numerous ways to go, and it depends on the photo to create the desired effect.

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Books

Review: Looking for Calvin and Hobbes – Nevin Martell

Nevin Martell writes reverently of Bill Watterson in

Looking for Calvin and Hobbes. The far reaches that Martell goes to find out who Bill Watterson really was, took him into the world of cartooning and going into the depths of Bill Watterson’s past. Numerous cartoonists were interviewed: Jim Davis, Bill Amend, Lynn Johnston, Stephen Pastis and many others. Martell even tracks down childhood friends, teachers, professors and business associates.

He tells of Watterson’s growth as an illustrator doing political cartoons to transitioning full time to a start up strip to Calvin and Hobbes becoming the social behemoth it was on the comic pages. Over the course of this history, Watterson was serious about his craft, cartooning and his characters. So serious that he disputed with his syndicated, threatening to walk about when his contract was renewed. Watterson despised the commercialism and licensing that pervaded comics, and how syndicates controlled the market, with papers keeping old, stale comics alive with artists filling in after a creator had passed on.

But there’s a richness to this story, seeing where characters originated, whether from family or friends to ideals Watterson held dear, which came out in his comics. Martell traces Calvin and Hobbes’ influence to later artists, and while near universal praise is given to Watterson, many still don’t get why he walked away.

Looking for Calvin and Hobbes is an in depth portrait of a man many grew up with, that shunned the spotlight. Well sourced, nuanced and detailed it reads easily, and sometimes it comes across too attached.

While reading, Martell captured what I missed about the strip and what made it unique, and what Watterson brought to the funny pages.

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Music

Carolina Chocolate Drops – Genuine Negro Jig

Carolina Chocolate Drops’ album 51F2l76c-YL._SL160_.jpgGenuine Negro Jig is a throwback, reviving traditional country, bluegrass string and jug music. It begins with an instrumental led by a fiddle that sets the tone for the remaining tracks–music from an era that mp3s forgot. Simple, direct and earnest, the album includes a mix of originals and traditionals. The originals, such as Hit ’em Up Style, Kissin’ and Cussin’ and Trampled Rose feel almost contemporary. Hit ’em Up Style has a hip hop beat and emphatic delivery as the fiddle carries the song. Kissin’ and Cussin’ has a sultry vibe with Rhiannon Giddens delivery. The traditional tracks, Cornbread and Butterbeans, Trouble In Your Mind and Snowden’s Jig are playful, energetic and spirted.

Stand out tracks:

  • Trouble in Your Mind – fun and spirited
  • Hit ’em Up Style – most contemporary track on the album
  • Cornbread and Butterbeans – catchy banjo and homely lyrics
  • Kissin’ and Cussin’ – great delivery
  • Why Don’t You Do Right – great vocals
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Music

Brandon Flowers – Flamingo

Brandon Flowers’ solo album, Flamingo, is a good, solid collection of tracks. With Las Vegas as his back drop, flowers tells stories of those to succumb or persevere in the bright lights. He varies the tempo and pacing of the album, beginning with a soaring Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas and kicks it up with Only the Young. At 41 minutes and 10 tracks, the album feels like a first act with Swallow It feeling like an impromptu closer.

Stand out tracks:

  • Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas – it sounds like an anthem, but it’s a cynical, rocking ballad of the excesses of Las Vegas
  • Jilted Lovers & Broken Hearts – sounds like something Bon Jovi would do
  • Was It Something I Said? – a punk pop ditty with a good beat and catchy lyrics
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Books, Technology

The Zen of Social Media Marketing – Shama Kabani

The Zen of Social Media Marketing by Shama Kabani

primes people for how to use online social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs and more. It’s mainly introductory, best suited for someone who’s new to social media. She takes old marketing strategies and shows how social media uses them online — attract, transform and convert.

Kabani breaks down:

  • Websites, Blogs, and SEO (search engine optimization) – fresh, relevant content is where it’s at.
  • Facebook – more of a breakdown of the different parts of Facebook
  • Twitter – what it is, and how to have conversations
  • LinkedIn – professional networking online
  • Video – various video mediums online, more than just You Tube
  • Social media policies – you should spell out the rules of use

She pulls out key learning points as Zen Moments. Each chapter contains relevant anecdotes from people who have applied the concepts, and the last part of the book tells of numerous case studies of how people used social media as a whole for success.

Kabani knew this book would become dated, so she encourages people to go to her website for updated content… and enter a password to do so.

If you’re digitally savvy, you can pass on this book. If you’re not, and need to get online, this will be a good start.

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Books, Pop Culture

Ex-Heroes – Peter Cline

“Ex-Heroes” (Peter Clines) tells of a world overrun by zombies, and individuals with super abilities take on a seemingly powerful zombie horde through the streets of Los Angeles.

Led by Stealth, an intelligent and quick female hero, the heroes took shelter within a movie studio compound and provide protection to those they can take in. After a botched mission, the heroes suspect a rival gang is growing more powerful, and yet, the zombies begin acting with intelligence. They begin to believe certain events are related as 60,000 zombies gather and moan outside their compound.

Ex-Heroes is a pulp amalgam of zombie, super hero and pop culture references. The writing is okay, and the plot moves well. Clines stops the story to intersperse first person origin accounts of how each hero came to be. Interesting, but the voice of the characters don’t seem to change.

This is a fun book, good for a mindless read.

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Books, Creativity

The Art of Non-Conformity

The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World by Chris Guillebeau tells of how you can live the creative, purposeful life you want. His advice is pretty simple: get over your fear of failure, your fear of others’ expectations, and if you want it enough, you can find a way to make it work. Perhaps Nike said it best: Just do it.

Guillebeau has some cool stories to provide insight, both personal and of those he’s met. The most important thing he believes is doing things and learning by experiences. Education and reading can provide ideas and insight, but they’re informational tools. You won’t know what works unless you do it.

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Books, Creativity

Making ideas happen

Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality, written by Scott Belsky, keeps the principle that an idea and the belief in that a central, well conceived idea is the core of making things happen. The book is broken down into three sections with practical tips and anecdotes to organizing and executing, connecting with others (he calls it building a community) and leadership. The tone is confident and some times cerebral, but grounded with enough stories to visualize what he’s talking about. Those stories can apply to individuals, teams in a corporate environment or non-corporate environment.

Organization and Execution
In the first section, Belsky suggests that when you have an idea, keep focused on it and create actionable steps to build momentum and confidence. Prioritization and identifying what’s essential is key in the beginning. It’s easy to keep adding to the idea, but you’ve got to be critical and keep to what matters.

Community
Don’t be afraid to partner with others. Know yourself, particularly if you’re a Dreamer (someone who can think up ideas), a Doer (someone who can execute) or an Incrementalist (someone who can do both–these are rare, he says, and he compares them to polymaths). Share ideas with others to get feedback and refine the idea. Let people in to build something bigger than just an executed plan.

Leadership
Know what really motivates people when it comes to doing things–play and recognition. If someone is doing something that doesn’t feel like work, that the task or project engages someone enough, they’ll do amazing work. Recognition for hard work also motivates people. Be sure to know what skills compliment each other, and know when to have a devil’s advocate to restrain a project from overreaching.

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Movies

Catfish

Catfisha movie about the Facebook age and tells a story about identity, truth, love, art and perhaps mental illness. It’s shot in a documentary style and works best if you know nothing of the plot. The suspense builds, peaking on a horse farm in Michigan, and then the twist arrives, bringing a cautionary and emotional denouement too soon. Too soon because, depending on your point of view, it’s either a pitiful story or cynical fable or plain stupid hoax.

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