Tag Archives: photography

Putting Together A New Mac Workstation

I haven’t had a desk since we got our previous house ready to receive our son. Instead, I tried to do work anywhere I could, which usually involved sitting on the couch in front of the television. Let’s just say that situation was not conducive to production.

With the new house came a new office with a new desk and a blank canvas for a new computer workstation. In putting together my requirements for the new system, I had a few hard requirements. First, I knew I wanted a Mac. I use both at work, and find that the Mac lends itself better for my creative workflow. I also knew that I wanted a desktop. I have an older MacBook plus my iPad for portability, and I wanted the feel of a real desktop and a place I had to go to work.

Most of the work I do on the computer involves a few different categories: general home-office activities (e-mail, document management), photo and light video editing, and some software development. The biggest use of the system resources would likely be required by the photo and video editing, and I wanted to make sure that whichever system I went with would not be an immediate bottleneck to my workflow.

I gave up building computers from scratch 10 years ago, so I was not interested in a Hackintosh or any other form of assembling a computer from components; I was looking for an off the shelf-solution. That meant the iMac, a Mac Pro, or a Mac Mini.

I ruled out the Mac Pro both because of price and because it’s too much computer for what I do. That left the iMac and the Mac Mini, an option I actually didn’t consider until a coworker brought it up.  As I researched that option more, it became the preferred option. You can get practically the same machine in a Mini that you could as an iMac for much less. The configuration I looked at had an iMac priced more than $600 more than the configuration I chose, simply for the “cool” factor.


In the end, I’m a week in but very happy with my system choice. Here are the details [affiliate links]:

Mac Mini (2.6 i7, 4 GB RAM, 1TB HDD) – The fastest i7 processor available in the Mini today with a respectable 1TB of disk space. With the iMac, there isn’t a clean way to upgrade the memory. With the Mini, however, upgrading the memory couldn’t be simpler, so I ordered the bare minimum RAM and saved $200 by doing the upgrade myself.

Corsair Vengeance 16GB (2x8GB) RAM – This RAM was $99 compared to the $300 price tag of upgrading to 16GB via Apple, and it took 3 minutes to swap out.

2 x Dell S2340M LED-Lit Monitor – I was looking at both the 21″ and 27″ iMac. The 27″ was too big, but I like the real estate that 2 monitors offers. These Dell monitors were well rated and reasonably priced.

Logitech HD Webcam C310 – Relatively inexpensive, but very high quality webcam for FaceTime and some recording.

Logitech K810 Keyboard –  The beauty of this keyboard is that it allows me to sync with up to 3 devices, so I can pair with my computer, iPad, or iPhone, all from one keyboard. The layout is more Windows-centric, but it is fully functional in the Mac world.

Super Drive – This would have been necessary even with the iMac. Apparently, no one uses DVD drives anymore.

Magic Mouse – A mouse! And it’s magic!

Wacom tablet – This is an old, old Wacom tablet, but I still use it occasionally for precise touch-ups.

iPad 3 – I still plan on using my iPad as a portable extension of my desktop, and I’m continuing to explore new ways to do so.

Note: Amazon affiliate links used above.


David Dreams Of Pictures – Mastery In The Art Of Photography

Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a documentary film about Jiro Ono, an 85 year-old sushi master on his continuing quest to perfect the art of sushi. Food Critic Masuhiro Yamamoto describes it as “a film about a man who has dedicated his life to create the perfect plate of food, knowing all the time that there is no such thing as a perfect food. As good as he is, he knows he can always do better.”

Jiro Dreams of Sushi - Official Photo

The way Jiro approaches sushi is nothing short of the way that Picasso approaches a painting, or Richard Avedon approaches a portrait. He strives for perfection, and to elevate his craft. He is always looking ahead, and always above himself.

In the movie, Japanese food critic Yamamoto lists “the five attributes of a great chef,” all of which, he asserts, Jiro possesses in abundance. I would add that the same attributes can be applied to a great photographer, as well, and any great artist.

Five Attributes Of A Great Photographer

They take their work very seriously and consistently perform at the highest level.

Whether you are shooting for yourself or for a client, you should approach them the same way. You won’t learn if you aren’t consistently pushing yourself to your upper limits. You can’t grow if you’re not challenging yourself. And you can never be great if you don’t constantly look above yourself and where you are with your abilities.

They aspire to improve their skill.

The equipment is changing, the technology is advancing, and photography continues to be more accessible. In the past, the barrier to entering photography was being able to afford a camera. Now cameras are affordable, and they are everywhere. The bar separating a good photographer from a great photographer continues to rise, and great photographers know that they will always have something to learn. They continue to improve their skills to separate themselves from the rest, and to reach that bar. In the movie, Jiro says “repetition build intuition”.  The more you practice, the more you’ll be able to rely on that intuition to see and capture your vision.

They maintain cleanliness.

Cleanliness in a restaurant shows a number of things. It shows that the staff cares about the experience and the quality of what they create. If a chef is willing to work in dirty kitchen, what does that say about the quality of food he is putting out? In the photography world, your camera is your knife. Keep your equipment clean and in good working order. Not only will your gear be ready when you need it, but it projects a positive image to your clients, as well.

They are impatient; better leaders than collaborators; stubborn and insist on having it their way.

Many of the great photographers are trailblazers, doing something no one else does. They don’t wait for things to come to them or for someone else to solve their problems. They move forward, figure it out, and lead the way. Instead of shooting someone else’s vision, there is a push to express their own point of view in their images.

They are passionate about their work.

If you’re not passionate about photography, you might still be able to make great images, but you’ll never be a great photographer.  Passion presents itself in a number of different ways, but its easy to tell in an image when it’s not there. Being passionate about your craft is one of those attributes that separates a good photographer from a great one.

More from Jiro…

Every ingredient has an ideal moment of deliciousness. =  Decisive Moment

Umami in food is the ‘ahhhhh’ when you eat or drink, the satisfaction that your body has reacted. It’s a physical response. = Photographic Umami is when someone physically reacts to an image.

Why buy rice you can’t cook properly? = Why buy gear you can’t use properly?

To make delicious food, you have to eat delicious food. = To make impactful images, you need to be open to the world around you. You need to notice light, and emotion, and all the ingredients that go in to making an image. You have to know what makes you react, and then use that in making your own images.

5 Myths About Photographing Theater Performances

I love photographing the theater performances. Sure, I’m a huge fan of the theater itself, but it also provides a unique and interesting photographic challenge. When I talk to people who are interested in giving theater photography a try, many of them have the same questions and misconceptions about how to get the best shots in such a dynamic, challenging environment. Here are the top 5 myths about photographing theater performances and the truth behind them.

PACE - Little Shop of Horrors - David Monnerat Photography

Parker Arts, Culture & Events (PACE) Center – Intermission

Myth #1 – You Will Be Shooting In Impossibly Low Light

While it’s true that the theater is dark, the performance and what you’ll be shooting is generally not. It has to be reasonably lit so that the audience can see it! Theater lighting will, however, be variable because the lighting is used to highlight the action or to set a mood, so through the course of a show, you’ll likely have great lighting for action-stopping photographs and low light that stretches your gear, and everything in between.

Myth #2 – Always Shoot At Your Widest Aperture

There are a number of reasons why you shouldn’t always shoot wide open. The first is that you may not have to. There will likely be times when the lighting is bright enough to allow you to shoot at a smaller aperture. You might also need to shoot at a smaller aperture to have a wider depth of field. If you’re close to the stage, shooting with a 50mm lens at f/1.8, that might make your depth of field 1 foot. If you’re trying to keep a few different things in reasonable focus, maybe two actors slightly separated with one standing in front of the other, you may need to shoot at a smaller aperture and compensate by increasing your ISO or decreasing your shutter speed.

Myth #3 – Shoot At The Highest ISO Available On Your Camera

Don’t just assume you need to crank up your ISO as high as you can. While modern cameras can do amazing things at high ISO, there is still a price; namely, grain and loss of sharpness and detail. At some point you reach the point of no return where you can’t remove noise and sharpen enough. Know your camera, know what the best ISO is to work around, and don’t go above that. If you want to use “Auto ISO”, see if you can cap it on your camera so that it won’t go above what you can clean up in post. That way, your camera can adjust to a lower ISO, which is generally preferred, but can automatically adjust for a darker scene or to accommodate for changing your shutter speed or aperture.

Myth #4 – Use Slow Shutter Speeds To Capture The Most Light

Slow shutter speeds can cause two problems. The first is using such a slow shutter speed that your normal breathing and body movements cause enough camera movement to cause blurring of the image. The typical guidance of 1/focal length for shutter speed is generally a good one, and vibration reduction can help you shoot at a lower shutter speed. The second problem is motion blur caused by the action on the stage which, in itself, isn’t bad; it can convey movement and add drama in the image. But if you want to freeze the action in your images, you need to shoot with a high enough shutter speed for the activities being performed. If the actors are standing around, that might be 1/50s. If they’re waving their hands around, running, or dancing, 1/50s isn’t going to work, so you’ll need a higher shutter speed.  Vibration reduction won’t help here.

Myth #5 – Use Auto White Balance For The Best Looking Images

Throw what you learned about white balance out the window when you shoot theater. When the main spot is white, and they use a green, red, and blue filler with 10 actors on stage, and everyone is moving so the color shifts in every frame, what do you do? Your camera struggles with the same choice, and the result is inconsistent white balance.  I leave my camera in auto white balance (in the unlikely event that it might actually make a correct guess), but then correct in post for every image. That’s right, every image. The nature of theater is that people are moving around, so in one frame the subject might be under a different colored light than the previous frame. In the end, I want to correct the exposure and white balance around my main subject. In the image below, the color has been adjusted to make the center character reasonably corrected with the characters on the left in a red light and the characters on the right in blue.

PACE Little Shop Of Horrors - David Monnerat Photography

Little Shop of Horrors – Parker Arts, Culture & Events (PACE) Center – Starkey Productions

The best way to get the best photographs is to know your gear, prepare as much as possible, be flexible and adaptable, and to remember that there are very few hard-and-fast rules to photographing the theater. And while it is extremely challenging, it can also be infinitely rewarding!