A Macro Minute – Local Scenery

Some of the most wonderful scenery can be found in our own backyard, if we know where to look.

In my home town, there is a small stretch of public land overlooking the marshes that is home to dozens of little vignettes that were probably seen once or twice in the minds eye when imagining places far away as described in a fairy tale.

When the author describes a clearing in the woods where soft grass grows, fed by a small pond, this scene is pretty close to what I picture.

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Although this is the scene one sees as they exit the property and enter back  into the real world, it is one that reminds me of home, a warm welcome and what I would expect to find in any cottage ever describe in a childhood story.

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This scene is a legend unto it’s self in my home town.  Grass Island is a piece of land that gives the visual perception of being an island, though there is a thin strand connection to the mainland.  One can walk to it.  The shack on Grass Island is the true land mark.  Never inhabited, rustic in appearance and sturdy enough to withstand tides and storms over the decades, it is a sought after image for photographers and painters alike.

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All one needs to do is look up into the sky, where ever they are and at just the right time, to see the warm array of color that comes at the end of the day.  Location, and what stands up against this scene in the sky, are what adds texture to the overall picture.

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Some scenes are elements that are isolated from the whole.  Beauty unto themselves, something recognized with the naked eye but captured, in perpetuity, only by the lens.

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A Macro Minute – Reflecting on Water

A nice gentle rain can bring a change of perspective to garden foliage.  This photo was taken just after rain fall and before the sun came out in force.

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A clear night and calm water can be a canvas for achieving a more artistic effect with sky shots.

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With the right lighting conditions and framing of the shot, water take on a diamond in the rough appearance.

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All photos were shot using a Nikon D5300. Basic photo enhancement was done using Adobe Photoshop.

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Thinking of Cutting the Cord?

Five years ago I wrote Evolution of The Playlist, a casual observers look at the changing landscape of media consumption and the choices the consumer is left with.

The accompanying set of video is a three part series for those thinking of cutting the cable / satellite tv cord.  This first episode takes a brief look at some popular media apps and what to consider before signing up.  The second video looks at the device options available for viewing content. The third video addresses data usage when relying on the internet to stream video.

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A Macro Minute – The Magnificent Magnolia

Through all of it’s stages, the Magnolia offers a variety of hardiness, delicacy, shape and texture in a short period of time.  This is one of my favorite trees to photograph in the spring.

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Protect Yourself From Online Phishing

It is always phishing season in cyberspace.  And nothing is sacred.  Hackers can get into your address book and send emails to you that appear to be from a friend.  Emails that look like they are from a known vendor or trusted brand name can appear in your inbox and ask you for login information to your account.  And then there are IRS scams, prize scams and all those oversees emails that come from someone in dire need (of your money).

How do you really know what message to trust anymore?  Here are a few things to consider before opening that next email.

Don’t click email links from “trusted” vendors.

We all sign up for emails from our bank, phone and internet company and tons of online vendors we use for personal and business transactions.  These emails can be informative in that they alert us to outstanding bills, sales, and new products.  It is for this reason spammers often try to replicate brand image of these trusted vendors and send out these fake email blasts and try to get customers to turn over their account information.

Best Practice: Do an independent internet search of your vendors and bookmark their website.  If you are still receiving paper bills you can also find their web address there. Just type it into your browser and then bookmark it.  Always go to that bookmark when logging into your account. Never click on the link in the email.

Emails with only a link in them are SPAM!

Emails coming in that have nothing more than a link in the body should be deleted immediately.  Do not click the link.  It will likely unleash some type of software that will run the spectrum of nuisance to destructive and possibly try to send its self out to your contacts as well. Speaking of contacts, you will likely receive this kind of email from someone you know, because they were hacked.

Be careful about updating your computer and software at a website’s suggestion.

Just as with opening emails from “trusted” vendors, be cautious about updating your system or web browser via links another website offers. If they are asking you to update your browser or other software needed to use their website than locate that third party by independent means.

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This is a screen shot from “About Firefox” which I pulled up within the app.  Many applications have this feature built in so you can update directly from the app.

Do not trust pop up screens.

Whether surfing the internet on a mobile device or full computer screen there may come a time when your screen/device is taken over by a pop up screen indicating  that you “have won…” or that your device is infected and you must call tech support.  They provide the phone number and everything.  Do not click the link and do not call the phone number. There will not always be a button you can click to close the window.  Many of these try to force the recipient into clicking the link or an “OK” button.

Best Practice: Close the app completely. Then re-open it.  If the problem persists,  close the app again and power off your device. This usually disables the malicious intrusion.

If all else fails, I have clicked “OK” and then been redirected to the website where I can claim my “prize”.  From there I close the page and the app without clicking on anything in the website. I also do a virus scan on my device.

Keep your antivirus software up-to-date and scan regularly.

My favorite anti-virus products are Intego for Mac and PC as well as Norton products.  They offer very reasonable pricing to cover a multi-computer home and many now have the capability of scanning mobile devices. The software can be set to scan automatically as well as handle manual scan requests.

Consider working some or all of this into your regular online routine to reduce the risk of being caught up in a phishing scam.

 

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Photographing Jewelry

There is a bit of a trick to photographing jewelry.  It requires a little more staging and attention to lighting in order to capture sparkle without creating glare or casting distracting shadows.  The video below gives some tips for building a basic setup for photographing jewelry.  The two key ingredients to a decent photo is bright, even lighting of the subject and a neutral background.  This video will show you how to achieve that on a budget.

 

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Social Media 101 for the Small Business

It’s 2016 and if your business is not on the web then it does not exist. All businesses, even small businesses, should have at least a website. These days, however, that is not enough.

Social media is the vehicle that drives traffic to your website, the central communication hub of your business. Social media is an extension of your existing website that allows for more instant communication of business news as well as direct customer interactions. Authors, musicians, artists, retailers and other mainstream businesses and professionals can benefit from a social media presence.

There are a multitude of options to choose from. You do not, and should not, be on every platform but you should take a look at what is out there and choose one to start with. Here are some things to consider when making that decision.

Why Do Social Media

Social media is about establishing a following. Viewers literally click a “follow” or “like” button to have your updates regularly delivered to their news feeds.

You will get followers if you offer relevant & timely information about your business, product or mission. Share info on new products, sale items or relevant industry news.

The other goal of social media is to have your followers share your posts with their social network. That is how new customers and clients will find you. It is basically the “word of mouth” marketing concept in a digital format.

Frequency of Social Media Posts

There is a lot of information out there that suggests daily posting, if not more, will get you the results you are looking for. For most small businesses and professionals, posting once or twice a week to keep followers engaged in your company is more than adequate. More often than that and followers will feel overwhelmed by your presence on their news feed and may choose to hide your posts or unfollow you.

 Types of Content Posts

Posts should be relevant, timely, short and descriptive. Don’t just say “I posted a photo to Facebook”. Say something descriptive about it such as “sneak peak of our spring line” if the photo is of new merchandise.

Posts can also be about upcoming events, industry news and testimonials.

Timing of Posts?

This all depends on what you are posting. Generally speaking it is best to post between 5-11pm, when most people are home from work, out of class and winding down for the day. Unexpected delays, closings or other news can be posted as needed.

Dealing with Negative Comments

Social media has a well-founded reputation of being the platform for spur of the moment, immediate gratification postings. These types of postings can often miss the mark and also offend. If you or your business are the recipient of such comments do not respond in kind. Take your time and be thoughtful in the words and information you put out there.

Complaints and negative comments can be indicative of valid issues that do need to be addressed and social media is a way for you to acknowledge the issue and assure customers it is being addressed. It is also a good platform to explain why something can not be changed. Sometimes public comments are simply not constructive. Those are the comments you delete.

I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly of social media in business and as purely social use. Just like with face to face communication, it is all what you make of it. Plan to make your corner of the digital social world the best it can be with what you put out there. Be ready to respond to constructive feedback that may necessitate a change on your end and be prepared to delete and block those that have nothing constructive to offer.

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