Cuba: A Visual Treasure

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Just one day remains for folks to pre-order my first photography book, a joint effort called Cuba: Seven in 10 (currently on Kickstarter). We successfully passed our fundraising goal so the the book is on!

Each photographer gets to present 10 photos. To be honest with you I have no idea how I am going to whittle down my choices to such a limited amount of pics. Cuba is a visual paradise with incredible photographic opportunities! I already have dozens of worthy pics and still have one third of my pics to edit. I know the other six photographers in the project — Charles Butler of Union 206 Studios, Nana Gyesie, Dwight Jefferson, Joe Newman of DC Focused, Pablo Raw, and Jon Sterling — were also amazed by Havana.

I have included a few pics below to give you an idea of what I am talking about. From stunning street shots and incredible people to beautiful cars to amazing architecture, Cuba has it all. 27760624312_9f68c1cd7d_h

The shot immediately above epitomizes all that is good with Cuba and all that troubles it. The people have a great warm spirit to them, and the architecture and colors are beautiful. At the same time the passage is poorly lit with the exception of the area where the table is, and you can see corrosion, a result of neglect in the post Soviet era.  The warmth overpowers the negatives here, and that is my sense of Cuba. Hard times may be upon the people, but they will persevere and thrive.

Please find a few more pics below. You can also view my public galleries on 500 Pixels, Facebook, or Flickr.

I hope you decide to pre-order the book today! My offer to give folks a complimentary license from my photography portfolio after the Kickstarter ends still stands. Regardless, thank you for being an interested friend.

Smokin!

A portrait of a young woman in Havana.

Central Havana 2016A shocking scene on a Saturday night in Central Havana. This is the side of Cuba most don’t see.

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And then there is the beauty of Havana.

Kickstarter for The Next Book – Cuba: Seven in 10

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Image by Joe Newman.

My next book will be a team photo effort from seven Washington, DC photographers in Cuba. Cuba: Seven in 10 (see our Kickstarter page) will feature 10 photographic takes on Cuba from each shutterbug, representing our personal interpretations of Havana and Cuban culture as it is exists now before the American tourism rush.

The end result? Cuba viewed by Seven in 10 frames each. This should make for a great photo book.

How long until Cuba’s amazing culture is changed forever by this new influx of American dollars and influence? In many ways, the zeitgeist of Cuban culture is in its twilight before entering a new phase as a destination for vacationing Americans.

The other six photographers in alphabetical order are Charles Butler of Union 206 Studios, Nana Gyesie, Dwight Jefferson, Joe Newman of DC Focused, Pablo Raw, and Jon Sterling. We are asking for pre-orders and support on Kickstarter beginning today.

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Geoff Livingston (me, on the left), Pablo Raw, Joe Newman, Dwight Jefferson, Jon Sperling, Charles Butler, and Nana Gyesie.

The actual trip will happen on June 9-15, and you should definitely expect some behind the scenes photos on my accounts. We also launched a Facebook page where we will post pictures during and after the trip.

Please contribute to this excellent effort. It’s going to be an incredible visual journey, and one that interests most Americans who enjoy travel.

Also, I want to give a shout out to Joe Newman and his new travel company Focused Photo Adventures. The entire trip was arranged by Joe and his company. Also, the header image was contributed by Joe.

What do you think about Cuba?

New 2016 Sunrise Calendar, Monochrome Gallery, and a Photo Book?

Tony Corbell and Rob Hull released a blog earlier this week that suggested highlighting your work on a calendar. It seemed like a great idea, and within a couple of days someone asked me if I would be selling a 2016 calendar.

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So I built one featuring 12 sunrises and sunsets, which people can buy for $20. You can see a few sample pictures here.

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Sunrises and sunsets are by far the most popular pictures I publish. While individual architecture or landscape photos can perform as well, nothing does as well regularly as a colorful sky. The sunrises and sunsets were curated against the month of the year, each one depicting a season.

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I have also created a new gallery of monochrome photos on my portfolio site. Every month I feature a new series on the portfolio, and this month it made sense to publish monochrome (black & white for the most part) as they are arguably my most artistic works.

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The above photo of the Memorial Bridge in Washington, DC is a great example. I do like working in a singular color because it forces the eye to see structure and light in the purest sense.

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All of these monochrome photos are available for sale here. In fact, if folks ever wanted to buy a photo of mine and don’t know how, the photo portfolio is the place to do it. Any photo can be uploaded and printed on demand, and shipped right to your house.

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Many people over the past year have asked me to create a photo book. I have researched cost and to self publish a print collection of 50-100 photos would cost buyers $75, give or take. That photo book needs to be awesome to justify the cost.

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The good news is I definitely have enough pictures to do this now. It’s a matter of curation; which ones and how to present them. I am currently looking at how to do it via Blurb, and think I may release a book on landscapes before Black Friday.

The Enemy Found, a Preview of Perseverance

After many iterations, the sequel to my first novel, Exodus, is being released on July 27. At 160 pages, Perseverance is either a novella or a short novel, but don’t let the length fool you—it’s non-stop action crescendoing in an epic battle. In fact, you may hate me by the end of it because I kill off some favorite characters.

“Geoff has dove into fiction writing like a dog after a bone,” said Author of Amazing Things Will Happen C.C. Chapman. “While the first book was fun, he took it up a notch with this one. The characters are more developed, the action more fierce and the story line much richer. You’ll end the last page filled with an urge to know what comes next and angry that you have to wait to find out!”

The following is Chapter Seven of the new book, “The Enemy Found.” I hope you enjoy the preview. You can also order the book on Amazon here and on the iUniverse site here.


Chapter 7: The Enemy Found


Concealed by a line of pines protecting the Cache la Poudre River, the Watchmen looked upon their enemy. The Christians still wore black tunics with white crosses, but they also had a motley collection of furs thrown
over their shoulders to keep warm. Weatherworn tents were set around the camp, and steam rose from a pot over the fire. A series of birdcages were sitting within the group of tents.

“We should all ride back now,” said George. “The Elders need to know so they can prepare the village for combat or evacuation. We may need to retreat into the mountains.”

“We’re not going anywhere this time,” said Charlie, who assumed the role of the Watch leader since Hector had become an Elder. “There is no way the village can handle another move like that. The first heavy snows
will come any day now, and we’re already scrambling to feed ourselves through the winter. We need to stay and recover now.”

“If Jason were here, he’d insist on informing the Elders immediately.”

Charlie straightened his lanky frame and glared at the Watchman.

“Aye, and he’s not one of us anymore, boy. And Hector isn’t Watch commander anymore, is he?”

Realizing that he had spoken out of turn, George nodded and left it at that.

“Okay, fellas, let’s work together here,” said Patrick, a grizzled, middleaged fisherman turned Watchman. “No one expected the Christians to follow us out here, at least not this quickly.”

“They must have had scouts following us. How else could they have Perseverance found us so fast?” Charlie scowled as he pulled out his knife and began sharpening it.

Patrick nodded. “Four tents and four men, so no one is watching us now.”

“Why would they trail us like this?” said George. “Why are we so important?”

“Ha! That’s easy. Mordecai,” said Charlie. “What else would drive an empire to trail and spy on a ragtag group like us? Who else could inspire this desire for conflict? If it was just us, they would have given up somewhere around the Mississippi. But when the former head of your church, the former number-two man in the Empire, joins up with a rebel village? You can’t let that go.”

“Oh, man.” George sighed. “How many times did he tell us about Pravus’s lust for power? He punishes anyone who stands in his way.”

“Maybe Mordecai alerted them to our location.” Charlie’s eyes burned as he challenged them to defend the priest. The accusation hung in the air.

After a period of time, George replied. “Why would he go to the trouble of saving us only to have us die by the blade? That makes no sense.”

“I can’t disagree with him, Charlie. That seems farfetched,” said Patrick. No one responded, so he continued. “Well, what should we do, gentlemen? Shall we capture them?”

“No, the risk is too high. There aren’t enough of us,” said Charlie.

“Let’s wait until dark, then we’ll get the horses and leave. We don’t want them spotting us. We’ll head back to the village, get some more men, and ambush them in the morning before they set out. I don’t want any of them escaping to warn the Empire.”

“Sounds like a plan,” said George. The three men settled in and watched the Empire scouts eat their dinner.

The Final 12

It’s hard to believe, but we are in the final 12 days of the 365 Full Frame Project. To celebrate, I will be making a big deal with the final 12 photos starting tonight with #354.

For those who are not familiar with 365 Full Frame, the project was created to add high quality full frame photos to the Internet at a low licensing cost. This was to reaffirm the need for high quality visual assets in the current era of social media. All dollars earned were reinvested in more photography equipment.

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It’s been quite a ride, and there have been times that I just wanted to stop. There were other times where I just thought the whole project was super annoying to people.

But I persisted, and here we are. One year later I have published more than 700 photos for the project, only half of which were selected for public consumption (the pug pic is an one of the 350+ outtakes).

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Along the way I became a better photographer and a professional one, too. I have been hired twice now by companies as a photographer this year and several others have asked to bundle photography with writing or social media services. So there is much to be said for dedicating oneself to consistent practice, photography or some other interest. Or you could say it helps to develop a third pitch. ;)

I plan to publish a photo book using the best 365 Full Frame photos created over the past year. Anyone who sponsors the project at a $100 level or more will get a complimentary copy of the book. And for those at the $50 level, if you chip in another $50 you will get a book, too. No bull (pun intended).

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And yes, after the cost of the books, I will continue to reinvest any 365 Full Frame dollars raised in more equipment. Thank you for your support and on to the final 12.

A Nine Year Rant

Last week marked my nine year blogiversary. Actually, it’s nine years of blogging, but this blog came afterwards. I sold my first one, the Buzz Bin.

So one might ask why am I still blogging and what have I learned? Here are nine mini-insights and rants about blogging and content as a whole to celebrate.

1) Blogging Is Not Everything

When I was caught up in the social media wave, blogging and the online presence it created was everything. It was an incredibly freeing tool that sent me on a wild writer’s journey, one I had always dreamed about. Over the last few years, I’ve come to see that blogging as little more than a tool. Blogs, photos and social media in general are very useful, but they ALL have their place.

When I see content marketers and other communicators prioritize their blogs as most important, I shrug. Maybe it’s everything for them. Maybe their blog communities are the alpha and omega of their business. And that’s OK. Many good things have happened from such gatherings, and I can testify to that based on my own experiences.

My blog certainly works to inform members of my community, but meeting, talking with, and seeing people in real life and via other venues is much more important. I’ve come to realize the relationships are most important, not the medium.

2) Strong Relationships Don’t Scale

Strong relationships don’t scale in a comment box. When I overinvested in digital media and underinvested in personal contacts, I put myself in a vulnerable position. Clients, co-workers and friends — the ones that impact your life in a positive fashion — matter more than any social score or reply. I’d rather talk with them directly. This is what enables me to retain great relationships — strong ties.

I don’t get as many comments as I used to (who does?). When I do it’s usually with people who I have spent some time with, and that’s important to me.

3) If There Wasn’t Public Commenting, We’d Have Less Haters, BUT…

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Haters are going to hate. Sometimes people just disagree and that’s OK, too. But there are others who feel they need to be contrarian or think they’re “smart.” They leave their litany of negativity. What would these people do without commenting? Is graffiti still an option?

BUT, you still need comments because it is social media. If a site is publishing without comments, then they are articles, not blogs. Blogging was at the heart of social media before social networks. In my mind, a blog is a two-way street. A publication — whether it’s a traditional masthead or an individual’s enterprise — can reside on a WordPress and not be a blog. Commenting is what makes social media.

4) Frequency Matters Until It Doesn’t

Blogs and content, one isn’t the other though some mistake the two as synonymous. If you’re a content marketer, then you probably know high blog post frequency is just one path to success. If you don’t use your blog as a primary content marketing vehicle, then frequency doesn’t matter. It’s what you choose to do with it. Frankly, if you’re a person you don’t have to content market. You can just be you, too.

5) Content Marketing or UX?

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Speaking of blogs as content marketing, the latter has been the marketing rage for a few years. Today, many would acknowledge the proliferation of content has just created the new spam. Five entertaining tips (and yes, this list of nine rants pokes fun at the Buzzfeedization of everything) done well are awesome, but the imitators have bludgeoned the customer with me, too efforts. See, here’s the problem: Content is just part of the user experience (UX).

When you sacrifice UX for the sake of personal attention and triggering Google bots, you create a long-term negative-sum game. It’s back to over-marketing. Following someone or a brand via social networks and RSS is a very casual form of permission. We need to consider how frequent average content impacts the customer’s experience interacting with us. Is this really worth talking to folks about?

Mark my words, content is a part of the UX. A great UX is what matters most to a brand, from first touch to every single interaction after a sale. Marketers will be forced to address the UX problem they are creating with content glut.

6) The Blog as a Public Journal (Yeah, Old School)

When I started, blogging was about journaling new technology discoveries, lessons learned, and sharing insights. For a while, a bunch of early adapters chatted together and broke in this fantastic new set of media. Then personal branding, corporate social media, and content marketing changed things. Blogging became a rat race, a demonstrative example of marketing smarts.

Then you have a kid. You run a business. You measure what’s generating leads. And maybe you prioritize.

When you hang up the frequency bite, you realize it’s going to be hard to be heard. You’re not playing the game anymore. Complicate that matter with a restlessness about blogging social media how-tos and trend pieces, and you have a problem. Content marketing is going to be difficult.

So, during the past year, I blog only once a week, and I write whatever I want. Topics can vary, including new media, fiction, photography, and work. When I have a social good topic, I blog about over at the Huffington Post. Most topics are opinion-based, just like they used to be. It’s old school blogging.

You know what? I have enjoyed blogging this past year more than I have since the 2000s. That’s pretty cool.

7) Influencers Aren’t Cool

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When I started blogging, bloggers were considered wild and rebellious by corporate America. By the end of the 2000s they were considered cool. Somewhere around this time, corporate America started to see the value of bloggers, at least as potential word of mouth endorsers. Bloggers became “influencers” in the corporate vernacular.

Today, word of mouth influencers are still important, but in the larger sense most people just see uber-bloggers/influencers as big over-privileged pains in the ass. Go figure.

8) I May Go Back to High School

I really hated high school. The exclusionary cliques, the stratification of the popular kids based on vapid criteria, and the shaming of the uncool was all too much. High school was an awful experience, and when graduation came I could not leave for college soon enough.

It’s been 25 years now. People have changed quite a bit, at least based on what I see via Facebook. I find myself very interested in attending this year’s reunion. I am sure there will be some of the old shenanigans, but I also think some people will be quite interesting.

Maybe I’ll feel the same way about social media conferences in the future.

9) Perseverance and Longevity

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My new book will be released later this summer. It will be called Perseverance after listening to the editorial feedback I received from the publisher. Perseverance is an interesting word when it comes to blogging.

There were months on end, long periods of time when I wanted to quit. But I didn’t. As a result I achieved longevity. I had periods of notoriety, but overall I meandered. The body of work moved between professional to personal interest, and back and forth again. More than anything, the blogs reflected my own personal journey and perhaps they suffered for that. That’s OK, I’m still standing.

As time has passed, many, many peers have stopped. Some have had periods of fitful stopping and starting. No matter what, whether they like this blog or not, people know this blog will keep publishing in the foreseeable future. I’ve made it this long. I can’t imagine not making the decade point.