A Photographic Adventure

We’re en route to the Big Island in Hawaii. It’s our tenth anniversary trip, truly a remarkable achievement. We made it.

When we were dating, I told Caitlin, “I’ll take you to Hawaii, babe.” Finally, that foolish boy’s promise has become a reality. I’m very excited for her to enjoy Hawaii, a place I have visited twice with great delight. And Soleil is with us, too, as she is only four and too young for a two-week visit with the grandparents.

Like all families we have our own interests. Caitlin wants to snorkel. I want to photograph the volcanoes and the Milky Way from atop Mauna Loa. Soleil wants to go whale watching, which I understand you can do from the beach (we’re not putting her on a boat).

How can I use this trip to create exceptional photos, some of my best yet? Let’s make it a photographic adventure instead of the usual Joe Tourist holiday and Facebook album. So how does one do that?

Gear

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First of all, I don’t own ideal equipment. Some of the lenses and my Nikon Df are very good, but there are some weaknesses. The good news is I have some help. My friend Philip Robertson connected me with the folks at LensRentals, who sported me a rig for the trip (I have not been paid, just given free equipment). Here is what they sent me:

  • Nikon D810
  • Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 ED
  • Zeiss ZF.2 50mm f/1.4
  • Nikon 85mm f/1.4G AF-S
  • Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED

The two telescopic lenses and the Zeiss 50 mm lens are superior to anything I own. They will produce exceptional images (provided I frame them and use the camera correctly). In addition, I needed the telescopic lens for my helicopter excursion over the volcanoes.

The 85 mm lens is more of a test for me. I own the less expensive 1.8f Nikon lens, and have always wanted to see what the difference was. I hope to put this to test in some low light situations, and see how the lens performs.

The D810 camera is a 36 megapixel beast. I have rented its predecessor, the Nikon D800, and opted to buy the Df instead. I liked the sensor a little more on the retro camera.

But as time progressed and my craft evolved, I came to appreciate the need for a faster, more versatile camera. Having a quicker shutter speed, better low light focusing, and sharper images would help in a wide variety of scenarios.

Many pros who shoot with Nikon equipment have told me the D810 is the best bang for the buck. I am considering the D810 as a potential next camera. Now I get to test it in a real scenario. Thank you, LensRentals.com for the opportunity to check all of this fine equipment out.

Commitment to Quality

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The other trick is to commit to quality. It would be really easy to walk around all day and shoot, and load a ton of images to Facebook. I don’t think that’s ideal, for you or for me.

What I’d rather do is post one great photo a day, the best of the best. That means 1) editing one photo a day, which can take 15-45 minutes based on my current workflow. The rest can wait until I get back.

And 2) I’d rather be intentional, setting aside certain times for photography, and spending the rest with my family. I know the gold and blue hours (one hour before and after the sunrise and sunset, respectively) are the best times to shoot. I intend to make the most of them.

Last, or 3) when I do shoot during the day it will likely be with the 50 mm or the 85 mm unless I am in the volcano shooting or whale-watching. I plan on daytripping with a lighter entourage. Then when I take a photo it will be to record a remarkable scene, not just because I happen upon a macadamia farm or there is a turtle on the beach. Unless of course that turtle is remarkable.

Most importantly, while I intend to take great pics, I’m most focused on having fun. After all, it is a vacation, and a special one at that.

You can see the pic a day on the 365FullFrame website, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or on Google+. I also intend to start a Pinterest board. If I do happen to post more than one photo a day, it will only be on Flickr.

Let’s see where this goes! Mahalo.

The Red Ocean Strategy of Miming Top Bloggers

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Image by hueystar

We see many, many novices and intermediates emulating, learning from, and trying to be a top ranked blogger. This is ultimately a strategy doomed to fail, an effort that will only lead to a dogfight for a second tier position in established content markets.

If you read the book Blue Ocean Strategy, you will find a refreshing theory on strategy that focuses on creating your own market as opposed to fighting for market share. This is the blue ocean versus red ocean concept, and it can be applied to content creation.

A red ocean — or in our case, the established blogosphere — is dominated by an established leadership that owns a majority of the market. It is usually followed by a long tail of similar voices that compete on many common aspects — types of content (text), topic (for example, social media marketing), customer (marketing managers), format (blog), and delivery (reader or social networks). As such, it is virtually impossible to grow an established market and therefore new entrants are simply fighting for market share.

When you fight for market share with established leaders, it is very, very difficult to succeed. They have market share already, and as such have inherent advantages.

Consider the Ad Age Power 150 for the marketing blogosphere. Its top ten is virtually the same as it was last year (and the year before that). Even the top 20+ is roughly the same. It’s only when you get into the 50-1130 range that you see real volatility and movement. With estabished loyal readers and word of mouth mechanisms in place (social network followings and RSS subscriber bases), top bloggers are almost impossible to unseat.

A new marketing voice who wanted to break in and create a perception of thought leadership might feel overwhelmed. And they should. They will have a hard time finding success with another marketing blog that copies the best practices and styles of one or several of the top 20.

Instead, they have to create a new way to establish content and commentary that breaks the mold. In essence they have to create what Blue Ocean Strategy calls value innovation with a unique and distinguished offering that customers immediately identify as special and worthwhile.

For example, there are many bloggers who comment on marketing, business and social media. There is only one who does so successfully with cartoons, and that is Gaping Void. Hugh MacLeod’s offering is distinguished in its comedy, delivery (comics, and a strong email program), and has a witty style to it. It hybridizes new media and the comics page. It is unique.

How will your content — scratch that. How will your company’s offering rise above the established marketplace, and create its own blue ocean?