Category: Photography

Self Employed In 90 Days

Hello,

I’m Sean Witzke, and I’m a music producer, videographer, photography, and all around media enthusiast. 90 days ago I cancelled my Netflix subscription, and set out on a journey to upgrade my personal skill set, become self employed, and in the end foster a lifestyle of learning and creativity versus consumption and laziness. In turn, I exchanged my Netflix subscription for a Lynda.com subscription; a website which develops university level online tutorial videos (photography, videography, music production, photoshop, autocad etc.). This website gave me the platform to help achieve my goals, and in the end, I achieved them.

What started off as a personal experiment, trying to teach myself how to program, turned into a full on lifestyle change through pursuing business opportunities, learning new skills, and overall being more prone to take risks and adventure out into the world. I can say that I’ve accomplished more than I ever have within 90 days. I went on multiple road trips across the coast of Oregon, and British Columbia; both endowed with amazing scenery and photographic inspiration… upgraded my video production arsenal far beyond what I thought I would personally own at this point in my life… founded my own video production company which currently specializes in wedding videography, Small City Film… and built a hefty portfolio in both videography and photography.

A Change In Direction

I look back now, and it’s interesting to see where this journey has led me. My original intent was to learn different programming languages, and see where that would take me in the world of technology, but after multiple nights on Lynda.com, I began watching tutorials on video production; more then I planned. I started growing more in my confidence as a videographer, throwing myself into new opportunities, and taking on projects I thought were once out of my reach. Overtime, I started filming more and more, and eventually landed multiple wedding video gigs over the summer. My goal at becoming self employed grew far closer then it ever did with programming, and so the switch was made.

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Day 78: Take The Time

In my previous post I mentioned that while in Kelowna I was shooting some engagement photos. There was also a moment when I was about to venture off into the city limits and take some interesting landscape shots of the couple, but due to the rattle snake warnings, that never happened.

However, while on our way home, we found an isolated logging road just off the highway in between Kelowna and Merritt. You’d literally have to be going 40 kilometers an hour to see it. Which we were, as we were appreciating the stunning scenery.

Polite Private Property

One thing I noticed while in Kelowna is that most if not all the land is privately owned, so walking on forsaken land was a dream; you’d usually be deemed a trespasser. This road was different though. There was no “private property” or “trespassers will be prosecuted” signs. Instead we read a lovely little sign that said “be responsible”. And so we were. It’d be irresponsible of us not to venture down this road in search of some forsaken scenery.

About 15~20 minutes down this small one way road we found a jetted out exit in which one could walk straight into the valley, and so we did just that. It was around 8:00pm and overcast. The couple looked at me hoping I could produce the vision I had pitched for them, but none the less we were all excited. We stayed until about 10:30pm taking photos and appreciating the view.

Be Willing To Adventure

While walking back to the car, which in its self took about half an hour, we were all fairly happy with our spontaneous outing. Photos or not, witnessing the sunset and view was priceless. We were all glad that we took the time. I’m certain all of us would agree that none of us knew what was down that logging road, past the forest, and into the valley. None of us knew of the sunset that was going to take place that night. And none of us really had the same vision for what we envisioned that night. But we all had a willingness to see where the road would take us. To take the time. To experiment. To adventure.

I’m not as sad about the rattle snakes anymore. They had their place. We had ours. And I think our’s was better.

 

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Day 75: Shooting Engagement Photos

Being in the Okanagan, there are plenty of orchards, desert landscapes, and all around stunning scenery close by. Yesterday, I had the privilege of shooting engagement photos for two friends of mine. Taking a break from editing video on my laptop, we decided to head out on a picture taking adventure across Kelowna.

After sometime at a farm that was owned by a family friend, we ventured up past the city limits to find rolling hills of beautiful desert. We kept driving, hit private property, and turned around to scope out some of the landscape while heading back to the city. We pulled the car off to the side of the road after we found a nice landscape for the perfect panorama. But unfortunately our adventure stopped after getting out of the car. The Okanagan grass is littered with rattle snakes, and that’s all we heard, rattle snakes.

…sometime I’d like to wander Iceland. Mainly due to the lack of rattle snakes, and the abundance of beautiful scenery.

Gear Wasn’t The Highlight Today

Most of the photos I was taking were during mid day with the sun being diffused by the clouds, while using my old 50mm Super Takumar f/1.8 lens (cost me $30 on craigslist). I was hovering around ISO 100~160, and my shutter was anywhere between 1/2000~1/500. I noticed that I could be taking these on my old T3i if I had wanted too. The lighting was good, I had a wide aperture on a good lens, my ISO was never being pushed, and my shutter was at some points being maxed out.

I was reminded that I really was no different then someone shooting on a T3i. Probably on Auto too. What made it different was the decisions I made. To not settle for cliches. To check my focus. To drive a little longer than normal… the more I confirmed that the gear is only a tool, and that it’s you that makes the difference. If you’re someone who’s interested in some sort of creative art, we live in a time where the barrier of entry is extremely low, and relatively cheap, compared to 10~15 years ago. Also, hiring yourself out to your friends for engagement photos is a super low cost, low pressure way, to practice your photography, and expand your portfolio. Maybe you should think of grabbing some sort of basic tool, and start practicing on how you can make yourself a better ___________ (photographer, videographer, audio engineer etc.)

The following photo was shot in a local cherry orchard in Kelowna.

Leoemmalynda

 

Day 71: Filming Two Weddings & Learning For The First Time

Last Friday I filmed my first paid wedding, and it was an amazing experience. From the groom seeing the bride for the first time, to the ceremony, and the speeches and dances, it was an all around party. Not to mention, I was also in the wedding party celebrating my best friend who was just married (I had a second shooter for the ceremony). The whole day went until around 12:00am, and then came takedown. Seeing as I was also a groomsmen, it was my responsibility to help fully end the wedding day. I stayed longer then a videographer normally would because of this. There was also a breakfast the next day for the wedding party, and along with that, I also had another wedding I was to attend for another best friend the next day. Talk about on the run.

As I went home that Friday night, I hit the preverbal hay as quickly as I could. I needed the sleep ASAP, as the next day would most likely run just as long. After attending the breakfast in the morning, I had to run a few errands and drop off a few rentals, and then I was off to another wedding. This one however, I was not planning to shoot. My close friend who was being married that Saturday asked me to not film so I could enjoy the day, but something in my wanted to still make him a great film, and I knew inwardly that I’d still enjoy the day (especially for the fact that the film would be his wedding gift).

Spontaneous Shooting

So, showing up as a normal onlooker, about 5 minutes before hand, I ran from my car with only one camera I happened to bring that day, and my lower grade tripod, and lavaliere. I found the pastor, mic’d him up, and took a place on the side to grab as many dynamic shots as I could. I only had one camera, my 6D’s battery was dead. I forgot to charge it when I got home the night before, along with the batteries in the T2i I was shooting with.

I had half a battery left for the whole ceremony, but I didn’t let that discourage me or stop me, I wasn’t being paid for this wedding, but that doesn’t mean you should cheap out on a gift. My last 16gig SD card was in the camera, with no hacked firmware on it (magic lantern; a firmware I never shoot without), and in the back of my mind I was wondering if the T2i would randomly activate it’s auto gain control while the lavaliere was being recorded. But I kept moving, and I kept filming.

Things Get Worse

It was almost over. They signed their license. They got blessed by there pastor. “I know pronounce you hu—“ and then the battery dies. I missed their first kiss as husband and wife! The worst! My friend Bryan, who was in the wedding party that day, and who was also my second shooter for the day before, saw me suddenly turn my camera down and run away. He was so confused. Why did I not film their kiss? I later told him why, and he bursted out laughing. He told me he placed a GoPro in the tree above which should entail a pretty nice overhead shot of them kissing, and I also found my friend’s dad who happened to get a nice closeup of the kiss on his Canon.

Enjoy The Day

I ended up going home in-between the ceremony and reception, charging my cameras, dumping my cards from the night before, and in essence, doing all the things I should have done when I got home last night. You really never know as a videographer when your next shoot is going to be. It could be planned, and paid for, or it could be spontaneous. Either way, you always need to be prepared, and this is something that no video, tutorial, or teaching, will ever teach you. The past two days of filming has made me that much more confident in the field of videographer, and especially wedding videography. There were problems I encountered that I never expected, and I have to say, I’m glad that I filmed my both of my friends weddings, even though they were both hesitant on me filming as they wanted me to enjoy the day. Valid argument, but I’m glad that I took the chance, and soon giving both couples the ability to relive their wedding for years to come, and that made the day extremely enjoyable.

Learn While Doing

I have another paid wedding at the end of the month. One that will be much more elaborate, and that’s exciting. But I’ve been duped into thinking that they best way to plan for a wedding, is to plan for a wedding. Wrong. The best way to plan for a wedding is to shoot a lot of weddings. The truth is you will never get better at any skill or trade if all you do is plan, and never test out your assumptions and techniques. Test them, refine them, and build some confidence in knowing that…

  1. You’re choosing to be someone who constantly learns… and…
  2. You’re choosing to be someone who takes action, even though they don’t know all the pieces yet.

If you take these two things to heart, you will exceedingly surprise yourself at what can be accomplished, because the best time to learn something is when you’re doing it for the first time.

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Day 29: When Things Go Wrong

This post was technically supposed to be a time-lapse of the night sky in Princeton BC, but I’m being honest… it wasn’t able to happen due to technical difficulties. However, I learned a lot this past weekend. My church has a mens retreat once a year, and this year we had the privilege to go up to RockRidge Canyon in Princeton BC for the weekend. The overall weekend of the retreat was good. I got asked to film over the weekend, so my church could put together a small highlight reel to show all the people who didn’t come, mainly the women… hah.

What Happened

Over the weekend I got some great shots, until the end of the last day. Some friends of mine and myself lifted our pastors car onto milk crates as a prank. It turned out pretty well, and we filmed the whole thing. We thought it’d be funny to show the video when we have our evening session, so I got my card out of my camera, and put it into my laptop… to find out… my SD card became corrupt.

What Did I Do

For the next five hours I spent researching and digging through the internet to find data recovery programs. The thing is with flash memory, even if the card is corrupt, the data is still there. At least, corrupt bits of it… I got a program called TestDisk for Mac, which is free, and runs in Terminal. It recovered nearly 50 Gigabytes of corrupt footage off of my 32gb SD card. It even recovered my old hyper-lapse photos from Oregon. Sounds great, right? Well… it turns out the way Canon DSLR’s write movie footage is through random sequenced data. It doesn’t actually create one file. The stitching of the sequenced pieces of data creates one file in the end (the .MOV). After digging through .MOV repair programs, I was left empty handed. The only thing left was a site that charged an arm and a leg to repair up to five files manually. In the end it was no help because I have over 100+ files.

I have yet to touch my SD card in hopes that someone here in Vancouver does these kinds of repairs/data recovery services specifically for DSLR video. Yeah, that’s right… I only brought one SD card to Princeton. So in light of all of this, I thought this would be a good moment to share a few simple things that I learned. Things which you all should know if you wish to take part in DSLR Photography or Videography.

  1. When you transfer content off of your SD card… don’t take out your SD card. Just plug in the USB cable into the camera. The less you take the SD card in and out of the camera, the better.
  2. Always bring more then one SD card. This might sound like common sense. But for me, I felt too comfortable with my 32GB card. I should have brought my extra 8GB card in case. At least.
  3. TestDisk is an actual program that recovers your corrupted data fairly well… it’s also free… and fully functioning.
    • For videographers, you will get a series of corrupted sequenced data that should technically make up ONE .mov file, which will need to be repaired manually.
    • For photographers, you’re in luck. If you ever need to recover photos. It recovers them flawlessly. All the photos from this past weekend were fully saved; RAW and all.
  4. Lighten up. Stuff happens. We move on, and learn from our mistakes.

How Do I Feel

I feel like I am that much more of a prepared videographer now that this has happened. I would never wish this upon anyone, and it still has left a bitter taste in my mouth, but if this has happened to you I would encourage you to move forward and to ask yourself “What can I learn from this?”. When you start asking those questions you’ll start having answers that more unexperienced professionals would never have, because they never got themselves into a place where they needed to ask those questions. Don’t let your mistakes go to waste. Take the time. Learn from them. What are some unfortunate things that have happened to you while on the job? How did you learn from them?

The following photo is one of the few I was able to recover. It was a test shot I took the first night to prepare for my time-lapse.

sky_Fotor

Day 17: Night On The Town

I was out late with a friend last night, experimenting with some night photography in the city of Vancouver. I’m preparing to eventually take a timelapse of the night sky, so I thought this would be a good time to experiment with my camera in low-light conditions. Taking photos of the landscape, lights, and architecture helped me realized how privileged I am to live in such a beautiful city.

The Ends vs. The Means

Being in a generation that’s so closely knit together with technology, I think the idea of going out, exploring, and reseting is a vital aspect in helping foster creativity. The original desire that brought me to take photos and videos, record songs for musicians, or experiment with coding never really had to do with the skills themselves, but what they could accomplish. You don’t fall in love with hammers, saws, and nails, because you just love hammers, saws, and nails. You fall in love with them because of what they can do; build tables, chairs, cabinets, houses. So it is with why we learn what we learn.

I encourage you who is reading to take a look at your life and ask yourself whether you’ve strayed from the big picture… what you originally set out to accomplish. Have you been too caught up in what you’re doing, versus why you’re doing it? I’d like to end this post off with a picture I took last night.

The following is a photo of the Lions Gate Bridge in Vancouver, BC.

lionsgatebridge