• 10 Minutes with a Stranger – My book is finally available!

    10 Minutes with a Stranger - A project and photo book by New York City photographer Seth Hancock

    As many of you know, I spent a large part of my 2013 moving from Los Angeles to New York City.  During that process, I spent several days driving across America working on a personal project called "10 Minutes with a Stranger." Well, I am happy to report that the book is now available to pre order and I will be shipping out books the week of January 6, 2014.  This first printing for sale to the public is limited to only 100 copies (as many of the other copies are already spoken for here in NYC) and when those are gone there will be no more of this version.  The cost is $35.00 for the book with a flat rate of $10.00 shipping USPS Priority Mail. I am going to personally sign each book with a "thank you" and personal message.  Also, please download the Junaio Augmented Reality App to get the full experience of the book.  I hope you get as much enjoyment out of this book as I did creating it. Remember, there are only 100 of these so you better get yours soon.  To order click on the PayPal button below. Thank You! Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

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  • Keeping the important things in perspective…

    Here's a touching, sad, poignant and loving photographic history of one man's wife and her courageous battle with cancer.  Its' amazing photography that documents her fight and serves as a reminder of what's really important in life. http://mywifesfightwithbreastcancer.com/

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  • Photographers – You Need to Know Your Rights!

    Here's a quick post from some recent information I stumbled upon.  As I make my way between NYC and LA I am always amazed at what some police officers tell me I can or cannot shoot.  But this information from the ACLU puts most things into perspective.  NOTE: You should never break the law or interfere with real police matters when photographing anything.  However, you are able to shoot a lot more than what you think. Check out this link here from the ACLU: http://www.aclu.org/free-speech/know-your-rights-photographers Download and keep a copy of this great PDF here: http://www.krages.com/ThePhotographersRight.pdf  

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  • Great video about being “Happy”

    I know a lot of people watch and follow TED Conferences, Videos and Talks.  This particular video is one that I thoroughly enjoy because I meet so many people who focus on the negative elements in life (not saying they are negative, just saying that negative elements are what may drive them to react or think about at times). Sean Achor, CEO of Good Think, Inc., researches and teaches Positive Psychology.  In this 12 minute video he talks about social and personal topics that are critical to every person and/or business owner AND he is a fantastic presenter.  Please watch the entire 12 minutes.  I can assure you it's worth it.  

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  • The 5 Things I Learned Photographing Mono Lake

    This past weekend I traveled from my LA home to Mono Lake in Lee Vining, CA.  The drive to Lee Vining is a wonderfully beautiful 5.5 hours and it takes me through Lone Pine, Mount Whitney, Bishop and Mammoth Lakes.  There are so many great colors and landscapes that it's hard to keep my eyes on the road at times.  I knew it was going to be cold, cold, cold there since I had been tracking the weather and moon so I could make some images with snow, ice, stars and of course the star of the images the Tufa of Mono Lake.  I packed my Nikon D3s, the holy triumvirate of Nikkor lenses (14-24mm 2.8, 24-70mm 2.8 and 70-200mm 2.8) and my tripod.  I also packed some serious winter gear as the temperatures were dropping into negative degrees during that weekend.  All that considered, here are the 5 things I learned photographing Mono Lake in the winter.

    This was shot in the parking lot at the South Tufa entrance. I wanted some of the buildings in the foreground of this shot.

    1.   I really only needed 2 lenses Although I packed three lenses (well 4 but I never really use my 60mm Macro lens in situations like this) I found myself only using the 14-24mm and 24-70mm lenses on a regular basis.  Along with my 14-24mm lens, I purchased the Lee Filter set (which comes with a hard-edged gradient ND filter - don't ask me why they ship the filter set with this truly useless filter.  If I were only shooting oceans and flat horizons then the hard-edged ND filter would make sense but the majority of this world doesn't have a flat horizon - I also bought the 3 stop ND filter and used this filter on every shot I made) so that filter set was always on my lens when I used it and for some shots when I needed to zoom in a little closer I would switch to the 24-70mm lens fitted with a Circular Polarizing Filter AND a Variable 8-Stop ND Filter.  I looked around for things to photograph with a longer lens but since I was focused on the Tufa around the lake the closer, wider lenses really worked best. 2.   Hotels and dining in Lee Vining are extremely limited This time of year is the slow time of year so my choices lodging and eating options were very limited.  I stayed at the Lake View Lodge and there was no "Lake View" nor was it a "Lodge."  It was a motel at best.  The door to the room would latch but not close all the way so the negative temperatures were constantly creeping into the room all hours of the day.  So, to combat this I would turn up the in-room heater that would make it either super hot or super cold.  The bed was as hard as concrete and their in-room television selection was limited.  They didn't even have ESPN as one of their channels but they did have 2 History Channels (the same channel on two different stations) and a couple of shopping channels.  I mean, REALLY, who doesn't have ESPN?  And, I had to run the hot water for 20 minutes before any hot water would ever emerge.  At one point I called the front desk to ask if I had to pay extra for hot water so I could shower.  Also, the one restaurant open (Nicely's) during this time of year was actually really good.  They had homemade soups that were very tasty but they close at 8pm so if you don't get some food you may have to survive for the night on whatever you brought with you (or you can kill a rabbit or two, make a fire and have your own meal). 3.   Weather: Expect the unexpected... always! This time of year the weather is brutally cold and can change in an instant.  I had been tracking the weather for 2 weeks prior to departing for Mono Lake.  I knew it would be bitterly cold but January 11th was the "New Moon" and perfect for photographing the night skies and stars.  Once I passed Mammoth Lakes (24 miles south of Lee Vining) I experienced a horrific snow storm while driving over Dead Man's Summit.  I couldn't see 20 feet in front of me and was white-knuckle driving my wife's Nissan Maxima (my four wheel drive Jeep was getting repaired at the time of the trip) the last 24 miles to Lee Vining.   Once I finally arrived at the hotel the snow had completely stopped but the clouds were still blocking the stars from being photographed that night.  According to all news and weather reports, there was not supposed to be any snow or clouds in the forecast until Sunday.  So I settled into my hotel room and went to Nicely's for dinner where I spoke with the locals about the weather.  I learned quickly that neither they nor I should ever rely upon news and weather forecasts for the area since it can change at any moment.  The day I shot all these images had some great clouds and as soon as the sun settled behind the mountains surrounding the area the clouds disappeared showing me the most stars I have ever seen in my life and allowed for the Milky Way to come out and play. 🙂

    This was shot in the parking lot at the South Tufa entrance. I wanted some of the buildings in the foreground of this shot.

    4.   Pack smart, warm and be able to move quickly I had three bags with me when I walked from the parking lot to the tufa area.  I had two ThinkTank Camera Bags and a Camelbak backpack.  The next time I go back I will only have two bags and one WILL NOT be my ThinkTank Airport International bag.  This bag is great for traveling since it's on rollers but horrible for snow and can get heavy when I am not rolling it and carrying it.  Fortunately there weren't a lot of people here this weekend so I could leave my bags in one location without having to worry about whether or not anyone was rifling through them to taking things.  But the number of bags made it difficult to move quickly and get the right lens/filter combination for the photograph I wanted to make.  When I wrapping things up and leaving well into the night I had to carry the bags back to the car and my right hand started to get numb and tingling from the brutal cold (I did have very warm mittens but they prevented me comfortably carrying things so I had carry the bags without these) and I had to stop three times to warm my hands and prevent frostbite.   I am buying a pair of glove liners so I can have a small amount of protection next time. 5.   I can't wait to get back I have visited this area once before but during the summer.  There were tourists with cameras everywhere!  People were jockeying around the lake and the tufa to get that wonderful sunset shot so tripod space was a premium.  On this trip there were only three people trying to photograph the sunset and it was a welcome relief.  We all had our own spaces and areas and "vision" of what we wanted to capture.  It was nice to have that much space and freedom to move from one location to another and not have to worry about missing a shot because I couldn't get to the exact position I wanted.  Furthermore, there was something really peaceful and serene I experienced on this trip that wasn't experienced in the previous trip.  It was quiet, calm and I could sit and listen to the water and wind for hours.   If you travel here and are curious as to what else you may need then here's another list of items I would highly recommend:
    1. Flashlight/headlamp
    2. Extra batteries for your camera and flashlights
    3. Bear Pepper Spray (unlikely but just in case you need it)
    4. Knife (again, just in case you need it)
    5. Winter Boots (not just hiking boots)
    6. Ski Pants (I was on my knees a lot and never got cold from kneeling in the snow)
    7. A really warm, down-filled coat
    8. An intervalometer or other cable release
    9. Water/Food
    10. Patience - The right shot will come but you have to wait and expect the weather to change for the better (at times).
    I look forward to going again and hopefully can get to the Ghost Town of Bodie and photograph it in winter but I need to find someone with a snowmobile who can give me a ride there since the road to Bodie is closed in winter (anybody have a contact?). Until next time, SH

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  • Photography lesson #1 – Don’t be a lazy bonehead

    Always be prepared when shooting.  This is great advice; too bad I blew off the most important rule of photography. Recently I went to Washington DC to photograph the area and see what I can add to my PLACES Portfolio.  In prepping for the trip I wanted to pack as lightly as possible so I could be mobile and traverse the city to see what I could find.  I took my DSLR and two lenses (24-70mm 2.8 and a 14-24mm 2.8).  My goal was to be as versatile as possible in shooting and moving around and thought those lenses would give me the best opportunity to do just that.  I made a conscious decision NOT to take my tripod as I thought it would take up too much room and I didn't want to carry it around all over the place.

    Apparently I left the dog behind along with my tripod. Sorry Albert!

    Well, that was a complete bonehead, rookie mistake on my part.  Case in point, this image below was a great opportunity to make a great shot.  But since I didn't have my tripod with me I couldn't do any long exposures when the light was better or to create multiple exposures (for bracketing NOT HDR - My motto: Death before HDR!).  This is a nice image but as you can see there is too much clutter in the background that could easily be eliminated by shooting at night (long/longer exposure) or with multiple, bracketed exposures and then layered together in Photoshop.  By darkening the background by 2-3 stops I could have easily made this a better image where the point of focus is solely the carousel and not everything else around it.

    Breakdown of why I don't like this image and wish I had my tripod.

    In this image of the DC Metro I was able to rest my camera between a wall and a rail to get a 1/8th shutter speed (long exposure) for this image.  If that rail wasn't there then there's no way I could have held that camera with my bare hands to get a sharp exposure.  Hell, I can barely get a sharp exposure at 1/30th shutter speed by hand holding the camera.  Glad that rail was there so I could make this image.

    Love the lines and architecture of this area. I couldn't do this without some stabilizing element.

    Lesson Learned!  It takes a conscious effort to make sure a good photographer has everything he/she needs to bring an image to life.  And, because of my laziness I couldn't get what I wanted.  The good news is I am going back to DC in January and this time I will not forget to take the tripod so I can redo this image and add to my portfolio.  Lesson here - don't make a bonehead move like me... be prepared and don't be lazy.  It's always better to be have it and not use it than to not have it and need it. No more laziness... SH

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  • One of my favorite LIFE moments

    In 2006 I was hosting a television show in Indianapolis called Doing Indy.  This show allowed me to go all around Indianapolis and show off the cool things the city had to offer.  I met a lot of celebrities and got to do some pretty cool things during my three-year run as the show's host, creator and executive producer.  However, there is one memory that sticks out in my mind more than any of the other experiences and that was when I had the chance to rap with Public Enemy's very own Flavor Flav.

    The one and only Flavor Flav!

    Flav was in town for Indiana Black Expo and I had been a fan of Flav's and Public Enemy for many, many years.  I knew I had one shot at this so I asked his management team if I could get an interview.  While asking about getting the interview I also told them about the show and how it was a fun and silly look at what's going on in Indianapolis.  Once I shared that with them I asked if Flav would be up for rapping with me.  His management team said, very emphatically too I might add, YES!  They went onto say, "Flav loves to do that sort of thing."  So I interviewed Flav and then proceeded to rap with him.  Here's the video of me rapping with Flav back in 2006.  Please don't ask me what was growing on my chin at the time.  I am still amazed at my many, varied and questionable facial hair decisions. The one thing I think that needs to be said here is regarding how I got to do this with Flav.  I don't have an elaborate answer... I just asked.  Never be afraid to ask a question about being able to do something cool, fun, exciting, challenging or important because sometimes the answer is an emphatic YES! Bring tha Noise! SH

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  • Advice for new photographers – SLOW DOWN

    The onset of digital photography has certainly revolutionized the photography world.  It's made making images so much easier and quicker and it has leveled the playing field by putting a camera in anyone's hands.  To own a great camera in the past one would have to drop thousands of dollars but now people can get into an entry level camera and lens package for a few hundred dollars.  And, sometimes you can find great deals on high-end used cameras and lenses at a considerably lesser price.  There is no question that digital imaging has changed the game of photography. That said, I still get asked by a number of people about how to make good images.  I get asked what camera to buy, what lens to use, what settings are best and how to compose the best shot?  I will openly admit that I rarely answer these questions because photography is, inherently, an independent vocation/hobby.  I don't mean to be rude but what I may offer can and will be different from someone else may offer or advise.  Moreover, my style of shooting is and will be different from that particular person's style of shooting so my advice may never be relevant to their question(s).  Then again, it may be completely relevant but I would hope no one shoots just like me and they find their own creative voice.  I do, however, offer advice with another piece of advice I learned when I first switched to digital imaging.  That advice is this...

    Slow Down! Treat your CF or SD card as if it were film

    SLOW DOWN!  Even though your Compact Flash (CF) or SD cards allow you to shoot HUNDREDS OF IMAGES doesn't mean you should!  Treat your CF or SD card as if it were film, only take one with you and give yourself a certain number of exposures to get your desired image.  By giving yourself some limitations you won't have to go through hundreds of images looking for the best image.  The term used to describe the people who just shoot and hope for the best is called "Spray and Pray."  The sooner you can get away from Spraying and Praying the better you are going be with your photography and it will help you find your creative voice. Lastly, by planning to give yourself goals and limitations you cannot help but become a better photographer.  You will have less images to go through and you can try a variety of settings to see what worked best - one image at a time!  When you slow down and plan you create goals.  Goals without plans are just "wishes" and you will never grow, learn or improve if you just keep wishing to be a good photographer.  Remember, just because you CAN shoot as many images as you want with digital photography doesn't mean you SHOULD.

    Just because you can shoot as many images as you want doesn't mean you should!

    Until next time, SH

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  • Changing White Balance for a Better Look

    About a month ago or so I was shooting a model for a personal portfolio shoot.  We went into the studio for a series of shots that I had thought about, sketched out and planned prior to the shoot.  It was a great, full day of shooting this gorgeous woman.  I had seen a recent post on The Slanted Lens about changing white balances and I thought I would try my hand at it based on memory from reading that post and seeing that video. One of the shots I had planned incorporated a nice window with sheer curtains.  However, we were shooting at around 11am and I knew the light would be very bright and overpowering when coming through the window and I wanted a darker, night time look to the image to create more of an elegant, moody scene. What to do...? I could over power the light coming in with my massive Elinchrom Rangers and try to darken up the area with a really high aperture and strong lights but then I would run the risk of blowing out my model too in order to make the scene work.  Or, I could just use the natural light coming through the window for the shot.  But neither of those sounded great to me and didn't make for an interesting image.

    The camera is on AUTO white balance here and while the image is not bad and looks nicely balanced it's just not as interesting as I would like.

    So I chose OPTION #2! Option 2 was to change the white balance on my D3s to a TUNGSTEN white balance in order to turn the white light coming through the window to blue and make it look more like a night scene than a day time scene to make a more interesting shot.  This shot shows how I took the light from day light to night without all the lights in place on the model.  If you look very carefully on the right on the image you can see my assistant, Judy, moving the curtains and getting everything ready for the shot.

    Changed the white balance from AUTIO to TUNGSTEN to get this look and start to make the image more interesting and colorful.

    VOILA!  There's the shot and look I am going for here.  Something as simple as changing the white balance can completely alter a scene like it did here.  Even though the lights are not in place and adjusted I already have a more interesting scene that can now be built with lighting, (IMPORTANT POINT) It should be noted here that in order to make this shot work I need to add a CTO to any of the lights hitting the model (Key and Rim).   If I were to use my strobes "as is" the color of her skin would be way off and she would look just as blue as the background.  In order to make this happen I placed a full CTO gel on the rim and key lights to ensure her skin tones are preserved and to create a nice separation from the scene.  I prefer to use these Rosco Color Corrections Gels but you can find large size CTO/CTB gels at most photography retailers. The lighting set up here was pretty simple and I will provide a diagram at the end of this paragraph.  All I used to get the desired effect were two lights since I had an abundance of window light coming through to camera right and creating a nice, but subtle rim light on the model's left shoulder.  More importantly, I used that light to do the heavy lifting for me by lighting the scene.  Because I had so much light coming in from the window I could concentrate all of my lighting efforts on the model.  The light modifiers used were a Calumet medium softbox (30" x 40") with a Grid placed to camera right and a Westcott Bruce Dorn Strip Bank with 2/3 of the light flagged off so that only the top 1/3 of the light would directly light the back of the model's head and shoulder on her right side set behind the model on camera left.  This was so that the strip bank acted more as a really small softbox than a strip bank for my desired effect.  The last piece was a 48"x72" Scrim Jim Large White Reflector used to fill in shadows on her right hand side. Here's the diagram

    The lighting diagram from the shoot.

    And, after a little touch up in Photoshop to eliminate a gap in the wall by the curtains and  cloning in the foliage outside to window so that it covered the entire window I pretty much had a finished image.  I did do a little retouching to the face - very little retouching needed here though.  Other than that, there was very little extra work done here because I was able to get the lighting precise and controlled after planning for this shot and visualizing the shot  well in advance.

    Here's the final image processed with the lighting set up chosen for this shot. The clients were extremely happy with this shot and, frankly, so am I. Better look all around.

    I hope this inspires you to try this trick outdoors as well as indoors so you can create a mood within the photo and not just settle for what the light is giving you.  We have the power to control most every element of light when we pick up the camera by changing color, look and feel right within the camera so that we don't have to spend too much time in Photoshop. Until next time, SH

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  • VIDEO TUTORIAL: Freezing Water/Splash Photography

    I have been asked about getting the Diet Coke/Water Splash images from several people so I decided to create a video tutorial.  This is my first video tutorial so please go easy on me.  Let me know here, on the blog, if you have any questions so everyone can learn from the questions and discussion.  Enjoy this short video tutorial - I hope it helps!   SH

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