Pearls luster photographs

Pearls have been one of the most difficult things to photograph I’ve run into yet.

Milky pearls
Milky pearls

Bison being aggressive toward me were nothing compared to these tiny little round spheres.

My first photos were too milky and bead like, as you can see in the photograph at the right.

Although I created the nearly perfect light tent with no particularly hard edges, this ended up being a total failure for pearls.  Many objects are very nice with uniform smooth lighting but not these.

According to what I saw on PearlParadise.com, I was making these nice pearls look like they were of low quality.  That is because the edge of the reflection is not sharp.  “You should be able to see your reflection in the pearls.”  For many things, I work hard to put a nice, smooth gradient on.  Pearls are just the opposite.  The harder the edge of the reflection, making the pearl look more mirror-like, the better.

Fail on the first attempt.  Oops.

So, after studying pearl images from Mikimoto, I figured out their image magic of

Same pearls with luster
Same pearls with luster

how they make the pearl look round and lustrous.  It’s a combination of their pearl quality and using one of the types of classic portrait photography.  In many of their images, they use what is termed butterfly lighting.  Not all of their pearl images are like that but most are are a variation of it.

Of course, making this style of image requires a softbox and reflector.  As my awesome parents are shipping me my softbox, I’m going to have to figure out how to get by with what I have for now.  Using very non-photography items like paper, cardboard, posterboard, and the like, I’ll be able to create a make-shift softbox.  As you can see with the second image, the same strand of pearls as above looks much more lustrous.

Like all photography (and really, everything else), you have to keep working it and studying what was done.  Then you can match and maybe even go beyond what anyone else has done.  This takes lots of effort and keeps you up late at night.  But if you keep at it, chances are you will succeed.

Just don’t give up.

One freakin’ step

When you were ten years old, you thought 30 years old was a gazillion years away, that the age was ancient and that there was no way you were going to get there. And then, one day, you woke up and realized it was your 30th birthday. How had you gotten here? Certainly not beamed through time in a parallel timeline like Star Trek. No, you simply lived out every day. Some days were the best and others were certainly the worst. Yet there you were, getting out of bed every day because you had to.

Maybe, just maybe, you completely stayed in bed by choice in the ensuing years between 10 and thirty. Sure, some times you were sick and you were forced to stay in bed. And you really wanted to feel better so you could get out of bed and do whatever it is you needed to do. There’s a peculiar point in this. When you are forced to do something you don’t want to do, it sure tastes and smells bad. Like meat that’s long since forgotten in the freezer and why the heck isn’t the Arm n Hammer doing it’s job? That white junk is supposed to suck up all this malodorous stank, yet it eventually gets overwhelmed. The little yellow box just can’t take it any more because something has finally run it down by doing its thing one tiny slice at a time.

Take that bad smell. How did it get smelly? Did it smell instantly when you brought it home from the grocery store? No, of course not. Because otherwise you would not have bought it. And, if you did purchase it knowing full well that it smelled bad, you have either a defective nose or some very strange things going on. That’s the subject of other blogs, not this one.

That now bad smelling meat got noticeable one day at a time, slowly. And likely with you totally forgetting about it. Yet, there it is. Completely enveloping your fridge in rotting stench. Now you are forced to take care of it. Again, this is something you don’t want to do, yet you are forced to because you don’t want it ruining the rest of the contents of the chiller and, eventually, the entire fridge. Imagine how much money would go to putrefaction if that smelly meat ruined everything, even the invincible ketchup and mustard. If you took the time to add it up, that would really blow your mad tachometer because you see that something that did its best to do something, aka rotting, one day at a time just became a bigger deal and now it has to be dealt with.

It happened one day at a time, one hour at a time, one second at a time.

That is the same with you.

No, hopefully you don’t smell like rotting meat. Take a shower you doof. In fact, if you smell like rotting meat, you probably better go to the hospital because that nasty gangrene is just about to turn your whatever into an amputation and you just don’t want to go there. Bad news. Again, something you don’t want to do.

Now that you’ve taken care of your wretched gangrene mess, you look at yourself. How did you get to this point? That’s right, if you didn’t get it before – one day at a time. How about that homework you’ve been putting off? The book you’ve been meaning to read? Like all that entire series of the Three Musketeers, all 5 books of it. Did you even know there were five?

While watching fail videos on YouTube, though entertaining, you could have taken that 10 minutes you wasted watching dumb people do dumber things with shaky grainy video, you might just have learned something. Enriched yourself. Made yourself just the tiniest bit more intelligent, well rounded (whatever that means), and maybe even have the guts to brush the hand of the cute girl who just walked by. And you know what, you’ll actually have something interesting and intelligent to talk with her about. Maybe she likes Jude Devereux and hates French authors but would certainly like to go to France. Or, more likely, Italy.

But that’s not the point. Don’t get all excited because you think you’re going to woo a girl because you read a translation of a book in French. It’s just not the same. If you were really slick, you would have spent your time learning French, read about D’Artagnan in French, and then been super sexy because you’d be able to order that French meal in French at a French restaurant and have your date go much better, not because you’re buying a French dinner but rather you’re showing the girl you bother taking the time to learn something, better yourself, and show her you might just take the time to get to know her. But, the only way you got that date in the first place is because you knew French.

And how did you know French? Yes, again, by taking a daily step. A single step, and learning that first French word, bonjour. D**n, there you go! You just learned one word. What does it mean? Look, if you can spend endless hours watching entertaining but meaningless videos on YouTube, you can certainly take less than the fifteen seconds it takes to open a new tab, copy “bonjour in english” into google, click search – yes you have to do that – and find out what it means.

Now, you have just learned a language. Granted you only have a tiny part of the few hundred words you need to communicate. What was that? Only a few hundred words? That’s right – you’d be amazed how far in the world you can get with just a few hundred words. And how did you learn those few hundred? By starting with the first.

You took a step. Now, was that very difficult? NO! And, if it is, you should see your doctor because you’re having trouble walking. And for those unable to walk, move yourself one foot forward, however you can get that done. And if you’re bed-ridden, roll over. And if you can’t do that, as the person who is taking care of you to shift your head slightly. There, you have now done it, you have taken that tiny little step.

Yes, I know, it’s only a figurative thing. How many texts do you send per day? Do you know how long that really adds up to? How about those meaningless web surfing sessions? If you only tossed in one more French word search, say “merci”, you would have increased your knowledge of French by 100%. Doubled. Wouldn’t you like to double your income in fifteen seconds? I sure would. But are you going to do that by following those 364 spam messages you received about instant, free home income with no work what so ever? No selling? Just get ten of your friends to sign up…

No. It doesn’t work like that. You have to take that one, singular step. Heck, maybe you think French is stupid and French people are stupid. Fine. Learn “hola” and “gracias”. That’ll sure come in useful if you’re ordering a taco. Or, if you want to be really cool, learn “konichiwa” and “arigato”. Are you going to be able to speak with someone on the street for very long with those two words? No, probably not. But, you just communicated with someone from another country and shown them that you aren’t such an American clown, unable to learn anything, ranking at the bottom of every measure except prison rolls and bad education results.

All you now have done is taken two steps. Holy heck, that won’t even get you to the refrigerator to take care of that bad meat. You’ll need a few more. But, if you’ve already taken two, what the heck is the problem with a third? Even if you face plant ending in an elegant scorpion fall because you failed to note your untied shoe laces, you still moved forward.

Get up and take care of that rotten meat, look up those two words, then go back to the stupid YouTube video. But know that you’ve just expanded your world.

Doubled, in fact.

Up to here, I’ve written 1395 words. My book, Antarctic Tears, is expected to be 80,000 words. I just typed 1.74% of my book in word count in half an hour, if the above words counted. I don’t type as fast as I used to but that’s another matter. But, string together another 28.6 hours and I’d have 80,000 words cranked out, give or take. That’s not even a freakin’ work week. Unless you live in France.

Granted, my book would suck because typing stream of consciousness will make a mess of a book, but at least I’d have something down on paper that I could add to, shuffle around, and make less sucky. And how did I get to the point of having a small but measurable percentage of my book done? That’s right, I stopped watching stupid youtube videos, which I laughed when the guy scorpion fell off his skate board, and sat down to this jazzy Macbook Retina and started clicking keys. That was it.

Nothing grandiose or amazing. No comet from afar flew past, lit up the room and I was inspired. No, only I, from the inside, did it. I want to see my book in print. How am I going to get there? That’s right – sitting down and typing that crap out. You probably don’t want to write a book or cross Antarctica dragging 300 pounds of supplies. But, there IS something you want to do.

Put exactly one minute into it. Since you’ve put in zero thus far, that’s an incalculably vast improvement to what you did before. Why is that? Because it’s that whole division by zero thing. My math PhD buddy can explain it better but most anyone wouldn’t understand the explanation anyway. The time would be better spent, that one paltry minute, in moving yourself forward to your dream of getting X done.

X = whatever you wanted to get done.

Go do it. Now. Stop reading this blog post and do it. Then, come back to the blog for more motivating.

Take the step

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Taking the hits

Broken ski in the middle of Antarctica
Broken ski in the middle of Antarctica

One day, you’ll be out there 150 miles in the middle of nowhere.  You’ll have no one with you.

Help is in another time zone and you’re having a tough go of it.  And, if you call for help to come in, you’re done.  You’re going home because you voted yourself off the island.  You put years into what you are doing and invested your entire life savings.  Every day, your mind and your body tells you that you should just quit and go home.

“It’s easier, it’s okay, you don’t really have to push through this.  Everyone will understand and no one will blame you.”

But no!  You keep pressing on, even when your mind and body are failing you.  You know that if you just take one more step toward your goal, you’ll be that much closer to making it.  All you just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Then, when you think you’re just keeping yourself together and making progress, it happens.  Something breaks.  Maybe your equipment, maybe your body, maybe someone you love.  And now what?  Something you were absolutely reliant on has failed you.  You break down and cry because you know what this means.  It means what you’ve worked for a decade of your life is going down the drain.

Or is it?

Broken ski in the snow
Broken ski in the snow

So, you get yourself up and evaluate what you have left to work with.  Yes, now it’s going to be even more difficult.  Yes, you thought it was hard before.  And life just delivered a near knock-out blow.  You’re on your knees wailing and making deals to try and get out of it.  Yet, there you are, by yourself.  In the biggest, badest wilderness on Earth.  Or, maybe in your office.  Wherever you are, it will happen.  And it will not be the first time.

This is decision time.  You can call it quits, pack it in, and go home.  You can decide that it’s not worth the effort.  Why are you here in the first place?  Maybe you’re just holding on for retirement.  Just a few more, what, years?  Decades?

What happens when the tough times pass and things settle down, when things aren’t as mean anymore?  There you will be, after quitting.  And the opportunity passes by.  And, others will pass you by.  And you will start to look back and start thinking, “That wasn’t so tough.  I could’ve kept going.  Why did I quit?”  That’s it, you are home and you’ll never have the chance like it again.

Do you want to be laying there, waiting to go to sleep at night, knowing that you didn’t do your absolute all?  How often is the thought of giving up going to haunt you for the rest of your life?  Will you be proud of giving up?  Will you be able to tell your friends, family, and children that, “Yes, it was okay that I gave up.  It was too hard.”

Someone else will find a way to do it.  They stayed up later at night.  They kept going even when their skis broke.  They kept walking.

Yes, the greatest have failed countless times.  Michael Jordan missed 26 game winners.

Lone Sastrugi
Lone Sastrugi

And yet, he was the greatest of his generation.  How can someone miss that many important shots and still be that great?

Because he didn’t quit.  He got up, day after day, and kept grinding it out.  He failed 1000’s of times.  But he succeeded 100 times that.  If you take the easy way out, giving it the old college try, you will fail.  And then you’ll see someone else succeed in your place.

Do you want that as a memory to look back on?  No!  You need to get up, you want to make good on what you wanted to do.  But the only way to do that is to keep coming back to the game.

In Antarctica, my skis broke on my sleds and I knew that making my round trip was over.  And yet I didn’t give up.  I knelt there by my dead sled, wailing, knowing that things had not been going well and now they were going to get worse.  And there was no one to pat my shoulder and tell me it was okay.  I only had me to buck up, tear the thing apart, and keep going.  I couldn’t just stop, set up my tent and call for a pickup.  I knew that I’d have to think and dream about that for the rest of my life.

For me, giving up is the worst nightmare.  Freddy has nothing on the quitting nightmare.

I might get beaten.  I’ve lost a lot in the past and I know I’ll lose more in the future.  But I also know that I’m going to keep coming back.  I’m going to get knocked down.  It’s not how many times you get knocked down but how many times I get up.

You will never regret getting up one more time.