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Wandering along the Route 66 Mother Road

This is among the last visible remnants of the famed Stoney Dell Resort on Route 66 in the Missouri Ozarks. Visited by Mae West, the resort included a 100 foot swimming pool, tennis courts, dancing, boating, fishing, dining hall, restaurant, service statin, bus stop and guest cabins. Reportedly it was so busy the Highway Patrol was often called in to direct traffic. 

social media marketing overload

Twitter, Instagram, Ello, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Snapchat, Tumblr, Vine, YouTube, Vimeo, and the omnipresent Facebook. These are just a few of the social media websites available today, and probably an even smaller fraction of what will be available tomorrow. Developing and maintaining a social media marketing strategy can overwhelm you. I'm an artist, a storyteller. I make pictures and movies but if I don't do the proper marketing, nobody will ever see any of it. While hiring a big fancy-pants firm full of experts to do all this for me might be nice, right now it's economically unfeasible. I'm going to have to do it myself. If only I knew what I was doing....

I've been a fan of CreativeLive online education classes for quite awhile now, as many know, so when seeking knowledge they are one of my first stops. Happily I found this upcoming class. 

This post is a part of the Double Your Followers blog tour to spread the word about April Bowles-Olin’s upcoming CreativeLive course. Does hearing the word ‘marketing’ make your armpits start to drip with anxiety? Are you terrified of sounding salesy or like you have the personality of a dead blowfish? If so, come join me and 2,500+ entrepreneurs who’re taking April’s latest CreativeLive course, Double Your Followers with Creative MarketingYou can RSVP and watch for FREE. Yep, free. High fives, wildflowers, wine samples. Who doesn’t love free?

Mother Nature is a fickle mistress

For nearly two weeks now, I've been hoping to add to my sunset project. Each day, the clouds have been magnificent all day long, magnificently white against improbably blue Ozark says. Then, about three hours before the sun starts to fade, the clouds start to dissipate, and by prime shooting time, they are gone. Finally, the streak was broken with this image. 

Essential iPhone apps

Evernote

I think of Evernote as a digital kitchen drawer. You can capture and store anything, audio clips, web pages, pictures, notes, etc… and Evernote will automatically synch so your info is available on all your devices. You can forward e-mails, add attachments and files, or make checklists. Anything you store becomes searchable both by content, or by tagging with keywords. Items are stored in individual notes, and can be organized into notebooks. I use it all the time to save webpages and articles I want to read or reference later. Another of my favorite uses is to take meeting notes into Evernote. You can record the meeting and type in your own notes and thoughts, and be able to find it all later. There are tons of ways to use this powerful program, visit their excellent website for tips, ideas, and examples. Evernote is free, but for $5 monthly or $45 yearly you can move to the Premium version, which gives you more features, notably more storage, offline notebooks, and the ability to search within saved PDF’s. 

 

Dropbox/Box

Are both similar services, offering free cloud file storage. Box is more geared towards the corporate enterprise market, while Dropbox caters more to the individual user. Both services are free, Dropbox starts off with 2gb storage (500mb additional for every new member you refer) while Box gives you 10gb. Both allow you to purchase more space, with Box being a little cheaper. Box seems to have better features for collaborative sharing, while Dropbox handles photos and videos better. I use them both in a variety of ways. My main use isn’t for storage so much as it is for being able to access files from anywhere, and delivering videos and files that are too big to e-mail.  I keep some documents on each, just as a backup. I have a personal folder where I keep scanned copies of my vehicle insurance cards, passport, drivers license, etc… I also have folders for my medical records, software registrations numbers, my resume, emergency contact info. In my work folder I have subfolders for my artwork (company logo, letterhead, website elements), a folder of forms (model releases, call sheets, job applications). I also have a folder where I keep downloaded owners manuals. Basically anything I might ever need remote access to, or be able to access from multiple devices. 

 

IFTTT

Stand for If This, Then That. Basically it uses 108 different “channels”, each with its own triggers and actions, as building blocks to perform automated functions called recipes. One I uses is If I take a new shot in Instagram, Then add the shot to a specified Dropbox folder. Their website has lots of shared recipes to get you started. 

 

Filmic Pro

This turns you iPhone video camera into a much more robust device, not only does it give you full manual control over focus, exposure and white balance, it's the only app that allows you to record at 50mb/s, and lets you select frame rates from 1-30 fps, including the film standard 24 fps. You also audio levels when recording, along with some editing options.. At only $4.49 this is a no-brainer. 

 

Snapseed

This was made by Nik software before being bought by Google. There are lots of photo editing programs available, but I think Snapseed balances power and ease of use better than most. It’s fast, allows for selective editing, and gives great results, and has become my go to editor on both the iPhone and iPad. 

 

Hindenburg

This is the standard audio recording program used by pro radio journalists and podcasters. A little pricey compared to most mobile apps at $29.99 but well worth it. Easy record features plus the ability to add markers as you record and you get non-destructive editing tools as well. 

 

Instagram/Facebook/Linked In/Twitter

Right now, these are what I consider the most essential social media sites. I use the official apps of each service. There are some consolidators out there, Hootsuite seems to be the most popular, but I’m fine with the basics. Many other programs will let you post to several social media sites at the same time. If appropriate, this is a handy feature. Updating all sites with the same info, at the same time, every time can start to feel kind of "spammy" to people who follow more than one of your profiles. 

9 Things Every Freelancer Needs Starting Out

Phone

I use a voice over internet service for my main line. This give me all kinds of fancy features, including one that when someone leaves a voicemail, it sends me an e-mail with the audio file attached. (if you get lots of calls, you could make a special voice mail only e-mail account). It uses a small adaptor that plugs into your modem or router on one side and your phone on the other, so you can take it with you anytime you move or travel. If you want, you can download a free program, (I use X-Lite) that lets you use your computer as a phone anytime you're connected to wi-fi. You can also pick your phone number or have an existing one ported over. If you pick a number through them, you might consider getting one in a major city for your industry. 

For almost a year now, I’ve used a company called Voipo. (http://www.voipo.com) They offer unlimited calling to US and Canada, plus tons of features. Costs only $149 for two years. 

Mobile Phone

You’re going to need a smartphone. Just trust me, you’ll never regret it. I’m an Apple guy, have been since the early 90’s, so I’m heavily invested in their systems. I’m not interested in starting an endless debate here. If you want to use other systems, feel free, I’m just explaining what I’ve settled on after years of use and experience. That of course means an iPhone. Most of the time, I upgrade every other generation, and always get the one with most memory. 

I’ll cover apps in another post later, but I can easily run my entire business just off the iPhone if I have to. Apps are available to let me manage all social media, update my website and this blog, use spreadsheets, word processing, databases, scanning, manage finances, etc…. 

Online Presence

First register a website domain address. Get one with your name: www.johndoe.com. If your name is unavailable, try initials - www.jdoe.com for example. Consider claiming the same name versions under .net, and .me as well. Even if your not planning to use your name right now, it is always good to have the domains under your control in case you need the option later. If your going to use a company name, register it also but get the .com and the .biz instead of .me. You can have the “extra” domains automatically transfer over to the .com account. Each domain is only a few dollars a year to register, so don’t be shy about taking multiple versions, and/or spellings. I use GoDaddy.com, they are the cheapest of the bigger companies, have good customer service, and have been easy to work with. 

You need a place to host the website content. GoDaddy will do this, but I prefer to use a company called HostGator. (www.hostgator.com) Their middle plan, which gives you an unlimited number of domains, bandwidth, and storage only costs $4 a month for 36 months. HostGator is one of the largest and top rated hosting providers, with an excellent reputation along with live, 24/7 phone tech support. (one of the best I’ve ever used. They are happy to walk you through any issue, which is important if you’re not knowledgable about web administration)

Now that you have a domain, you need e-mail. With HostGator, you can have an unlimited number of addresses for each domain. Make up one with your name (john@johndoe.com) as your primary account. Then start with another at info@johndoe.com. This is your commonly published address, you need to have a filter so your not overwhelmed with frivolous items in your inbox. Others you might consider immediately: subscribe@…., for people to sign up for a mailing list (we’ll talk about automating this later). You can make up one for each employee, or even for each section of your business. When using HostGator, you can have your e-mail program get the mail from each account, or you can log into any web browser and manage all e-mail online. 

Now you’ve got a web domain, and e-mail address, so it is time to get a website. There are lots of design programs and services available. Myself, I went with SquareSpace. (www.squarespace.com)  They have nice clean templates, many geared towards photographers and visual artists. Their building block style takes some getting used to, and it isn’t infinitely customizable, but once you get the hang of it you can make a really clean site. It will autosize your content for viewing on any platform or size including iPhone, iPad, and monitor. Once set up though, it is the fastest and easiest way to update your content, blog, calendar, etc… It has built in e-commerce modules as well. They don’t offer e-mail, but HostGator walked me through how to set it up where the domain name servers point to my SquareSpace account, and the e-mail servers point to them. 

Lastly is social media. It’s kinda the wild west out there, and things keep changing, but for right now I would sign up for accounts with the following services: 

Professionally, in my opinion you should focus on these four: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Periscope is a new live video streaming app that Twitter just bought, and I wouldn't be surprised if it isn't the next big(ish) thing.  With some tweaking you can publish updates to one place and have it auto post to the others, saving you lots of time. 

Next, sign up for accounts with Vimeo and YouTube for video hosting. Vimeo is higher quality, but YouTube has a greater user base. Register for all social media accounts under your name and company name, trying to match your website name as closely as possible. 

Computers

My main desktop computer at this moment is a 27” iMac. When getting computers, I always get as much hard drive space, and RAM as possible. I’ve added two cheap 19” LCD monitors that I use to keep other programs open on while working on the main screen. (web browser, e-mail, etc….) Next time I update, I’m probably going back to a Mac Pro, with a 27” monitor. Some use a laptop connected to a big monitor all their work, but I’m a fan of having two computers in case one has to go out of service I have some type of backup. 

Laptop

Hard to beat a 13” MacBook Air. Big enough screen you can use Lightroom, or Final Cut Pro if need be, and its just powerful enough to allow for proofing, rough cuts, or light editing. My main concern with a laptop, since it is a second machine, is portability, and this machine is light enough I won’t leave it behind just because I don’t want to lug it around. 

Tablet

More of a luxury, although for some users a top end tablet might be able to replace a laptop. I do like using it for casually showing my demo reels and still portfolio’s. Right now I have an iPad mini. I picked it up as a Black Friday deal, so it is only 16 gb, and I’m always having to move stuff around. Like I said, always get the biggest storage available. The mini is a good in-between for the laptop and phone. I use it as a remote monitor/control for my DSLR and GoPro cameras. I also use it for quickly checking e-mails and web browsing, and watching Amazon prime around the house. I could get by without it, but it is pretty handy to have around. 

Office Hardware

Fujitsu Snapscan ix500 batch scanner, scans like 50 pages at a time, front/back and turns them into searchable pdf’s. Lots of options on how to handle scanned items, and where to put the new files. Combine with the Paperless software and you can get pretty close to a paper-free operation. I scan everything, then box it in archival file boxes, probably never to see the light of day again. 

Xerox Phaser 6110 color laser printer. I rarely use it, but the toner cartridges last forever and the printed materials look great. I’ve had it for years, but I could probably go without a printer at all at this point.

G Technology Thunderbolt Hard Drives. Use for backing up main computer, and for data storage. Also have a couple of their new evATC drives, mobile drives in a water/shockproof case to use in the field. 

Business Cards

Splurge and get nice ones, four color front and back. This is a big part of your first impression, you don’t want it to be cheap. Copycraft.com does a good job at a good price.

Portfolio/Demo Reel

No matter what work you do, you need to be able to show it off, both on your website and in person. Keep a version on your iPhone, iPad, laptop, and while you're at it, buy a keychain thumb drive and store it on there as well. 

random tip - how to always keep an owners manual handy

Check the website and download digital copies of the owners/users manuals for all your technical gear. Store these files on your smartphone, or on your personal cloud-based website. This gives you emergency access so you can look up how to use an obscure function, or if you need to look up customer service contact info.

 

random tip - emergency stash

Everybody knows you should keep a spare $20, $50, or even $100 bill tucked away in a back pocket of your wallet for emergencies. Problems where do you keep it where you won't see it and be tempted to spend it, or when you're like me and use a money clip. The solution is to go to a local drugstore or on Amazon and pick up a small aluminum keychain pill holder. I bought a set of 6 on Amazon for $7. They measure 1 7/16" X 33/64", and use an o-ring, claiming to be watertight. Take your emergency cash, keep folding it in half until i fits in the holder. Now anytime I'm out, I've got an emergency stash, hopefully enough to get me out of whatever jam I managed to get into.                                                                                                                                          

A shot years in the making.

I'd photographed this statue for years, all hours of the day and night, and from every angle I could think of. I always lamented the fact that every time I showed up to shoot it, the sky was dull and boring. Finally, I found the sky I was looking for. 

Charlie Parker statue in Kansas City, MO

Charlie Parker statue in Kansas City, MO

ozark vista

Capturing scenic vistas in the Ozark countryside can be harder than you think. It's not just finding high ground to stand on, it's finding high ground to stand on where you're  not surrounded by 100 trees. 

random Tip - Photoshop shortcut

When your working in Photoshop, you're often zoomed in very close and need to move the viewing area around. Some go to the toolbar and select the "Hand" tool, those extra savvy folks hit the "H" key (h for hand) to switch to that tool. The Jedi Photoshop use holds down the spacebar. This turns turns whatever tool you're using temporarily into the hand tool. As soon as you let up, the tool reverts back to what it was. This makes working on detailed areas with the brush tool so much faster and smoother. 

random Tip - Protect yourself and your gear

Go to your local sporting goods or discount store and buy a handful of cheap rain ponchos. My local store sells them for 88 cents each. Toss a couple in your main camera bag, (one for you, one to drape over your camera) Put another one in the glovebox of your car, and every other camera bag, or box of gear you have. Sometimes I tape them to the inside of the box lid to keep them out of the way, yet easy to find. 

random Tip - Cheap camera cases you can hide in plain sight

The back to school items are hitting the shelves already, so it's a great time to pick up some gear cases. The insulated sandwich packs/lunch carriers make great cases for your camera of electronic gear. The insulation serves as padding, and if you leave it on the backseat of your car, it doesn't scream out "steal me", instead it says, "I'm to poor to buy lunch, so I had to bring a bologna sandwich from home, so I don't have anything expensive here"  When I had a Jeep Wrangler, I kept my camera in a Strawberry Shortcake lunch bag for several years until the zipper broke. Bonus point: if you’re a guy you will become secure in you manhood very fast. 

Tractors and Life Lessons

Old Massey Ferguson Tractor

Massey Ferguson tractor

I made this photograph a while back, but never had gotten around to applying the aging effects I was envisioning until now. This was one of the first tractors I learned to drive, and one that taught me a valuable lesson. I was not very old, hence not very strong,  the first time I soloed on this machine. Combined with the fact the tractor lacked power steering, it was probably no more than a matter of minutes before I drove it into the barbed wire fence ringing our hayfield. This was the day I learned a two valuable lessons. Number one, I could run faster scared than my dad could pissed. Number two, his anger could last longer than I could run by about two days. To this day, I don't like this type of tractor, but sometimes they do make a nice picture.

Cattle in the Fiery Sky

Deep in the Flint Hills of eastern Kansas, I found an area where the ranchers were doing their annual prairie burn, removing the dead grass. Knowing that once the smoke got into the atmosphere it would produce some wild colors, I followed the southwest winds for about 12 miles and set up for the sunset shot. Lucky for me some lonely cows wandered over to investigate and became my models for the evening. 

Flint Hills cattle at sunset

One from the archives. Shot this somewhere south of Cottonwood Falls, KS in the heart of the Flint Hills. This shot has never been published, but I’ve always kind of liked it, flaws and all.

One from the archives. Shot this somewhere south of Cottonwood Falls, KS in the heart of the Flint Hills. This shot has never been published, but I’ve always kind of liked it, flaws and all.