Does Being Creative Justify Being Messy?

Does being creative justify being messy?


When you’re seven, you’re nagged at, threatened, and cajoled to pick up the toys. As a full-fledged adult, nothing’s changed – you could even miss a promotion because of how your desk looks.

We all have a friend who neatly stacks food in the cupboard with labels facing out. Underwear thrown in a pile in your drawer? Not a chance. Books are organized by category, with spines facing out (of course) in the same direction. You’ve peeked in the hallway closet. Yup, even the jackets are colour-coded.

But maybe being neat isn’t that necessary after all.


Google and messy desks

On former Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s first day at Google, the mess shocked him. “Clean up the place,” Schmidt instructed the facilities staff. Now-CEO Larry Page was shocked by the neatness. “Where did all my junk go?” he asked facilities staff. A little more directly, he demanded: “I want you to bring it back NOW.”

The problem? Too much neatness can make a place feel sterile. Google encourages employees to make the office feel like home. If that means firing paintball guns at the walls as employees did in the Google Seattle office, full steam ahead!


Famous folk with messy desks

If Mark Zuckerburg’s desk can look like this, we’re going to stop tossing out our old magazines.

Mark Zuckerberg Creative Minds and Messy Desks

You haven’t seen anything yet. Check out the desk of Tina Fey, actress, producer, and screenwriter.

tina fey Creative Minds and Messy Desks


We want a cowboy hat too! Check out the workspace of Tony Hsieh, CEO of online shopping behemoth Zappos:

Tony Hsieh Creative Minds and Messy Desks 

Al Gore….

Al Gore creative mind Messy desk


Steve Jobs….


There’s a message here that is painfully obvious. And perhaps Einstein has wrapped it up perfectly for us:

Einstein Creative Mind Messy Desk


The science behind messy desks and creativity

Messy workspaces can give your brain a creativity boost. Dr. Vohs at the University of Minnesota found that orderly environments lead people toward tradition and convention, while disorderly environments encourage innovation.

Being messy isn’t helpful all of the time, however. Subjects in orderly rooms chose healthier snacks and donated more money to charity compared to subjects in messier rooms. Dr. Vohs’ advice? “If you need to think outside the box,” she suggests, clutter away. However, if your goal is straightening out your bank account, start by clearing the mess from your workspace.


The Takeaway

  • A new study shows that having a messy desk can make you more creative. Check!
  • Being messily creative could come at a cost – as in others could perceive you as unprofessional….however, your brilliant work will shine through any mess. And really, is it fair to be judged on your desks contents when you’re otherwise knocking it out of the park? Maybe a new boss is in order.
  • If you need to sort out something technical like your budget? A little less clutter might be the way to go.
  • Have a messy desk? Join the ranks of Einstein, Mark Twain, Tina Fey, and other greats.


Congratulations to Katarina Benzova, this weeks Featured Photographer at The Open.


Meet Katarina Benzova:

In an age where the playing field of photography has been levelled by technology and everyone has a camera, when a light shines above the crowd as brightly as Katarina’s, you know it is a truly gifted talent and not merely a learned skill.

Kat has the ability to capture musicians when they are like lighting rods receiving and transmitting the energy of the universe for all to hear. There are moments that happen on stage, moments of sheer bliss that transcend all. Where the music is flowing through the musicians and connects with the audience in an incredibly transcendental way. The ability to capture those spiritual high points is what sets Kat Benzova apart. She captures artists at the perfect moment when their souls are completely exposed.

At just 13 years old, Slovakian born, Katarina Benzova would leave home on an international modeling contract, sending her to live in all of the major fashion cities around the globe… It was through her extensive travels during her 10 year career as a fashion model that her ambitions finally outgrew the runway, prompting a deeper need to rediscover both herself and the rest of the world from the other side of the lens.

And it’d be through the lens that she’d grab the attention of none other than the iconic Guns n’ Roses front-man, Axl Rose. Axl was so moved by the photos that Kat took of the band at a show in Vienna, that he immediately hired her as the bands exclusive photographer. She continues to tour with Gn’R as their tour photographer. She has quickly become one of the most in demand rock photographers and has shot and worked with other legendary bands like The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Kiss,Def Leppard, Motley Crue, ZZ Top, Courtney Love, Motorhead, The Cult, Sebastian Bach, Thin Lizzy, Jane’s Addiction, Alice in Chains, Black Label Society, KORN, Van Halen, to name a few.

Kat’s work can be found in publications such as: Rolling Stone MagazineVogueClassic Rock MagazineSPINNMELA TimesMetal HammerNY TimesUSA Today, …. as well as ads for Monster Energy, Celestion Speakers, James Trussart Guitars, Ashba Swag, … She has now begun to cross over in to fashion, editorial, advertising and fine art.

Kat carries on the torch of history’s great arts photographers capturing and inspiring an heir of mystery, excitement and drama with every image.

Check out Kat’s full body of work.

IMG_9698 copy

“Darkness is to space what silence is to sound, i.e., the interval.” -Marshall McLuhan



Perry Farrell, singer of Jane’s Addiction during their show in George, WA ’13 when they were park of Rockstar UPROAR festival



Richard Fortus, guitarist of Guns N’ Roses taking an evening walk on wild coast of Dunedin, New Zealand after a concert with band The Dead Daisies.



Justin Hawkins of The Darkness jumping during their show in Mallorca, Spain ’12 when they opened for Guns N’ Roses



“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.”
-Victor Hugo



Richard Fortus of Guns N’ Roses and legendary drummer Charley Drayton talking a walk through night Hyde Park in Sydney, Australia



Richard Fortus and David Lowy from rock band The Dead Daisies with guest Darryl Jones from Rolling Stones walking in snow storm after visiting Urquhart Castle on lake Loch Ness while having a day off on their UK tour last year.



Billy Gibbons, guitarist of legendary band ZZ Top during their show in Sydney, Australia in 2013



“Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” ~Berthold Auerbach

Shooting Music Photography with Katarina Benzova

Katarina and I hooked up over the past couple of weeks to chat. Or should I say email, which is close enough when dealing with crazy rock star schedules and time zone differences. Although truthfully, I would have set my alarm for 3am to meet her on Skype. She has killer talent, has carved out a spectacular niche for herself in a challenging (understatement) world and is self taught to boot. Inspired? I was. Read on to learn how to break into becoming a music photographer.


Tell me a little about what’s behind the name Katarina Benzova?

I guess I’m a photographer in a field that people like to specify as rock photographer. It just sounds more badass then music photographer :) If you were to Google ‘rock photography’ you’ll see black & white classic (not only) rock, live or backstage photos of music legends.

I feel I’ve missed my era and should have been born a while back when that kind of photography mattered to people and when it was appreciated on a higher scale. Moments captured in those photos were moments when music was changing the world with strong political and social messages. Moments when the iconic bands, like Led Zeppelin, were just starting up or others like Rolling Stones were at the peak of their career. It’s an awesome journey to blow through what has been documented and I’m so grateful to the few photographers that have honoured these incredible musicians with their lenses.

With Jimmy Page in London


What draws you in?

Those photos reveal the real music, real emotion. No special lights or backdrops just to make “better” shooting environments for press photographers that are publishing in media. In that era, they didn’t give a damn. Music was what mattered.

I’m trying to continue in it, that’s why I mostly shoot in black and white. With B&W there’s no distractions and you can concentrate on the energy and feelings that the musician is experiencing and delivering to the audience.



What’s the biggest difference you see between then and now?

Things have changed a lot. An image, show or activity on social media is almost as important as the music itself. One of the positions that started to disappear is a tour photographer which is a person that documents the tour. That’s what I do when I’m not involved in another project.

The industry lost it’s strength when the Internet paved the way for piracy to kick in, leaving touring to be the only way for bands to make real money.


Do bands hire tour photographers as much as they did in the past?

Definitely not. Back then also, it meant the photographers got a spot on a tourbus with some food and drugs in exchange for their work :)

Todays view is they don’t all need to spend that extra money for a photographer when they know everyone in the audience has a camera and will be posting to social media channels. The evolution of social was the moment when people stopped appreciating fine art of music photography. We all use them to our advantage, without a doubt, but it’s easier and cheaper for fans to download a pic that they like from the internet or even take a photo on their own.

Making promo shots for The Dead Daisies


With all these challenges, how did you break through?

I was lucky. I was at the right place, at the right time, meeting the right people. I always loved photography but I didn’t know what type I wanted to concentrate on until I shot my first concert. After that night I was hooked; it was exactly what I was looking for.

Axl Rose,Guns N' Roses


What drives you?

Capturing musicians when they are like lighting rods, receiving and transmitting the energy of the universe for all to hear. There are moments that happen on stage, moments of sheer bliss that transcend all. Where the music is flowing through the musicians and connects with the audience in an incredibly transcendental way. I want to capture those spiritual high points, capture artists at the perfect moment when their souls are completely exposed.

I wasn’t there when they started or when they were peaking with their careers, but I’m capturing their last shows. And I want to capture it the same way they were captured 50 years ago. The only difference between now and then is the years on the artists. The music, the energy, the epic life altering moments are still the same and it’s my honour to capture it.

With a little background on Kat, we asked her for recommendations on how to become a music photographer and break through to her level. Here’s what she said:

Paul Stanley, KISS


How to become a music photographer

You love music and photography? Great! Go out and shoot shows.

This is a list of steps to get your work and name out there:

  • Start with small shows where you don’t need a photo pass and focus all your hours on practice. And that’s worth saying again…. practice, practice and practice more.
  • Try to push those photos to different publications and to the band. If the publication likes your photos they may ask you to cover some other shows for them. If the band likes your photos they may want to discuss buying them from you for their album art, etc or at least share your work on their social media.
  • Once you are more confident and you feel strong about your portfolio, take it and go to magazines, record labels and band managers…everyone who can possibly hire you for your next gig.
  • Check out concert schedules in your town and see which shows you want to shoot.
  • Contact the venues, band management, everyone who can help you to get photo pass. You may hit a lot of dead ends and have disappointment in the beginning. It’s not easy. Just remember you’re doing what you love. It will take a while and if you are good, it just gets better and better.

Photography is just as much a job as any other so don’t let people fool you that they don’t have budget to pay the photographer. The only time you should shoot for free is if you need those photos to build your portfolio.

Up Close and Personal tour with Guns N' Roses


Getting on Tour

If a band likes your work enough, they may invite you out on tour. Bands have high demand from their fans to be posting regular updates on their social media channels. A photographer has become a key marketing investment for many bands to help them build their image and brand. The photographers eye is how the world sees the band, their personalities and lifestyle, days on the road and moments outside of work. It’s the way to gather material of the tour to create a book, a tour program or other materials.

Working for Aerosmith in Australia


What’s life on the road like?

It sounds glamorous and there’s a long list of highlights. I have no complaints. However, being a photographer/videographer on tour is hard, the days can be gruelling. You move to a different city or country everyday, shoot everything that is happening around you, do all possible interviews or video segments for TV and radio station with the band members, all while hauling around a lot of heavy equipment. At the end of the day when others may be catching some sleep, I head to my hotel room and start editing. I’m on a 24 hours turnaround time to get processed and published.

Being a straight up photographer isn’t enough anymore either. I’ve learned how to shoot and edit videos and how to run social media for the band. Plus you improvise when needed, I’ve been found holding a pair of scissors trimming someone’s hair or helping a band member with their stage clothes. I push the road cases with the techs, sometimes carry their luggage or give a first aid to a pyro with a burn. When on tour, you’re part of a team, it’s a tour family and everyone helps each other. It doesn’t always allow for much sleep, but I love what I do and would never change it.

When you are off tour then you can just shoot local shows or whatever you please. For example I do some adventurous globe trotting and shoot documentary photos. It’s my way of balancing life on the edge and living life to the fullest :)

Shooting Guns N' Roses from the riser in Las Vegas


How does being female, and a very pretty one, work?

Ah, yes the female thing. When I’m on tour I’m a roadie. It took a while to earn their respect and be accepted in a wolfpack. This business is not built for girly girls and you have to show your teeth and horns once in a while to gain respect in male dominated industry. When I’m off the road it’s a different story :)

On tour with KISS:Def Leppard and The Dead Daisies


What parting words of wisdom would you leave for other photographers?

Sometimes the whole process can be completely different and have different mutations. But that’s life. You can’t plan out every single little detail. Go with the flow, love what you do, learn, educate yourself, fight for your believes and believe in yourself and your vision. It doesn’t always mean you are doing something wrong, but maybe other people cant just see it yet:)


If you’re anything like me and can’t seem to get quite enough of Katarina and her rock n roll lifestyle, check out this personal interview too:

Get in touch with Kat: InstagramFacebook, Twitter and her blog.

Katarina Benzova Bio

_MG_9574nAt just 13 years old, Slovakian born, Katarina Benzova would leave home on an international modelling contract, sending her to live in all of the major fashion cities around the globe… It was through her extensive travels during her 10 year career as a fashion model that her ambitions finally outgrew the runway, prompting a deeper need to rediscover both herself and the rest of the world from the other side of the lens.

Kat has the ability to capture musicians when they are like lighting rods receiving and transmitting the energy of the universe for all to hear. There are moments that happen on stage, moments of sheer bliss that transcend all. Where the music is flowing through the musicians and connects with the audience in an incredibly transcendental way. The ability to capture those spiritual high points is what sets Kat Benzova apart. She captures artists at the perfect moment when their souls are completely exposed.

And it’d be through the lens that she’d grab the attention of none other than the iconic Guns n’ Roses front-man, Axl Rose. Axl was so moved by the photos that Kat took of the band at a show in Vienna, that he immediately hired her as the bands exclusive photographer. She continues to tour with Gn’R as their tour photographer. She has quickly become one of the most in demand rock photographers and has shot and worked with other legendary bands like The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Kiss, Def Leppard, Motley Crue, ZZ Top, Courtney Love, Motorhead, The Cult, Sebastian Bach, Thin Lizzy, Jane’s Addiction, Alice in Chains, Black Label Society, KORN, Van Halen, to name a few.

Kat’s work can be found in publications such as: Rolling Stone Magazine, Vogue, Classic Rock Magazine, SPIN, NME, LA Times, Metal Hammer, NY Times, USA Today, …. as well as ads for Monster Energy, Celestion Speakers, James Trussart Guitars, Ashba Swag, … She has now begun to cross over in to fashion, editorial, advertising and fine art.

Kat carries on the torch of history’s great arts photographers capturing and inspiring an heir of mystery, excitement and drama with every image.

18 Things Creative People Regularly Do

Creativity works in mysterious and often paradoxical ways. Creative thinking is a stable, defining characteristic in some personalities. Inspiration and ideas often arise seemingly out of nowhere and then fail to show up when we most need them, and creative thinking requires complex cognition yet is completely distinct from the thinking process.

Neuroscience paints a complicated picture of creativity. Gone are the simple days of considering the right-left brain distinction following the creative-analytical formula. In fact, creativity is thought to involve a number of cognitive processes, neural pathways and emotions, and we still don’t have the full picture of how the imaginative mind works.

To further entice us into the complex minds of creative types, their personality types are all unique to the individual. Types, as we may normally term it, don’t exist. After all, individuals that naturally avoid habit or routine go against the grain of us humans being creatures of habit. Ever dated, married or had a best friend that was a “tortured artist”? They exist, it’s true. However, I’m not sure the term tortured is the right broad sweeping category to jam all creatives into. Complicated maybe. Tortured, not too sure about that. Research has suggested that creativity involves the coming together of a multitude of traits, behaviors and social influences in a single person.



1. They daydream

Moises Levy

Photo Credit: Moises Levy

Creative types know, despite what their third-grade teachers may have said, that daydreaming is anything but a waste of time.

Although daydreaming may seem mindless, a 2012 study suggested it could actually involve a highly engaged brain state — daydreaming can lead to sudden connections and insights because it’s related to our ability to recall information in the face of distractions. Neuroscientists have also found that daydreaming involves the same brain processes associated with imagination and creativity.


2. They observe everything

Brian Bielmann

Photo Credit:  Brian Bielmann

The world is a creative person’s oyster — they see possibilities everywhere and are constantly taking in information that becomes fodder for creative expression. As Henry James is widely quoted, a writer is someone on whom “nothing is lost.”

The writer Joan Didion kept a notebook with her at all times, and said that she wrote down observations about people and events as, ultimately, a way to better understand the complexities and contradictions of her own mind:

“However dutifully we record what we see around us, the common denominator of all we see is always, transparently, shamelessly, the implacable ‘I,’” Didion wrote in her essay On Keeping A Notebook. “We are talking about something private, about bits of the mind’s string too short to use, an indiscriminate and erratic assemblage with meaning only for its marker.”


3. They work the hours that work for them

Mikko Lagerstedt

Photo Credit: Mikko Lagerstedt

Many great artists have said that they do their best work either very early in the morning or late at night. Vladimir Nabokov started writing immediately after he woke up at 6 or 7 a.m., and Frank Lloyd Wright made a practice of waking up at 3 or 4 a.m. and working for several hours before heading back to bed. No matter when it is, individuals with high creative output will often figure out what time it is that their minds start firing up, and structure their days accordingly.


4. They take time for solitude

Eddie O'Bryan

Photo Credit: Eddie O’Bryan

“In order to be open to creativity, one must have the capacity for constructive use of solitude. One must overcome the fear of being alone,” wrote the American existential psychologist Rollo May.

Artists and creatives are often stereotyped as being loners, and while this may not actually be the case, solitude can be the key to producing their best work. For Kaufman, this links back to daydreaming — we need to give ourselves the time alone to simply allow our minds to wander.

“You need to get in touch with that inner monologue to be able to express it,” he says. “It’s hard to find that inner creative voice if you’re … not getting in touch with yourself and reflecting on yourself.”


5. They turn life’s obstacles around

Many of the most iconic stories and songs of all time have been inspired by gut-wrenching pain and heartbreak — and the silver lining of these challenges is that they may have been the catalyst to create great art. An emerging field of psychology called post-traumatic growth is suggesting that many people are able to use their hardships and early-life trauma for substantial creative growth. Specifically, researchers have found that trauma can help people to grow in the areas of interpersonal relationships, spirituality, appreciation of life, personal strength, and — most importantly for creativity — seeing new possibilities in life.

“A lot of people are able to use that as the fuel they need to come up with a different perspective on reality,” says Kaufman. “What’s happened is that their view of the world as a safe place, or as a certain type of place, has been shattered at some point in their life, causing them to go on the periphery and see things in a new, fresh light, and that’s very conducive to creativity.”


6. They seek out new experiences


Photo Credit: Chris Burkard

Creative people love to expose themselves to new experiences, sensations and states of mind — and this openness is a significant predictor of creative output.

“Openness to experience is consistently the strongest predictor of creative achievement,” says Kaufman. “This consists of lots of different facets, but they’re all related to each other: Intellectual curiosity, thrill seeking, openness to your emotions, openness to fantasy. The thing that brings them all together is a drive for cognitive and behavioral exploration of the world, your inner world and your outer world.”


7. They “fail up”

Suzanne Tylander_Dejection2 copy

Photo Credit: Suzanne Tylander

Resilience is practically a prerequisite for creative success, says Kaufman. Doing creative work is often described as a process of failing repeatedly until you find something that sticks, and creatives — at least the successful ones — learn not to take failure so personally.

“Creatives fail and the really good ones fail often,” Forbes contributor Steven Kotler wrote in a piece on Einstein’s creative genius.


8. They ask the big questions

Creative people are insatiably curious — they generally opt to live the examined life, and even as they get older, maintain a sense of curiosity about life. Whether through intense conversation or solitary mind-wandering, creatives look at the world around them and want to know why, and how, it is the way it is.


9. They people-watch

Linda Wisdom

Photo Credit: Linda Wisdom

Observant by nature and curious about the lives of others, creative types often love to people-watch — and they may generate some of their best ideas from it.

“[Marcel] Proust spent almost his whole life people-watching, and he wrote down his observations, and it eventually came out in his books,” says Kaufman. “For a lot of writers, people-watching is very important … They’re keen observers of human nature.”


10. They take risks

world open of photography

Photo Credit: Marcel Lammerhirt

Part of doing creative work is taking risks, and many creative types thrive off of taking risks in various aspects of their lives.

“There is a deep and meaningful connection between risk taking and creativity and it’s one that’s often overlooked,” contributor Steven Kotler wrote in Forbes. “Creativity is the act of making something from nothing. It requires making public those bets first placed by imagination. This is not a job for the timid. Time wasted, reputation tarnished, money not well spent — these are all by-products of creativity gone awry.”


11. They view all of life as an opportunity for self-expression

Nietzsche believed that one’s life and the world should be viewed as a work of art. Creative types may be more likely to see the world this way, and to constantly seek opportunities for self-expression in everyday life.

“Creative expression is self-expression,” says Kaufman. “Creativity is nothing more than an individual expression of your needs, desires and uniqueness.”


12. They follow their true passions

Anthony Ghiglia_101209_0218 copy

Photo Credit: Anthony Ghiglia

Creative people tend to be intrinsically motivated — meaning that they’re motivated to act from some internal desire, rather than a desire for external reward or recognition. Psychologists have shown that creative people are energized by challenging activities, a sign of intrinsic motivation, and the research suggests that simply thinking of intrinsic reasons to perform an activity may be enough to boost creativity.

“Eminent creators choose and become passionately involved in challenging, risky problems that provide a powerful sense of power from the ability to use their talents,” write M.A. Collins and T.M. Amabile in The Handbook of Creativity.


13. They get out of their own heads

Kaufman argues that another purpose of daydreaming is to help us to get out of our own limited perspective and explore other ways of thinking, which can be an important asset to creative work.

“Daydreaming has evolved to allow us to let go of the present,” says Kaufman. “The same brain network associated with daydreaming is the brain network associated with theory of mind — I like calling it the ‘imagination brain network’ — it allows you to imagine your future self, but it also allows you to imagine what someone else is thinking.”

Research has also suggested that inducing “psychological distance” — that is, taking another person’s perspective or thinking about a question as if it was unreal or unfamiliar — can boost creative thinking.


14. They lose track of the time

Katarina Benzova

Photo Credit: Katarina Benzova

Creative types may find that when they’re writing, dancing, painting or expressing themselves in another way, they get “in the zone,” or what’s known as a flow state, which can help them to create at their highest level. Flow is a mental state when an individual transcends conscious thought to reach a heightened state of effortless concentration and calmness. When someone is in this state, they’re practically immune to any internal or external pressures and distractions that could hinder their performance.

You get into the flow state when you’re performing an activity you enjoy that you’re good at, but that also challenges you — as any good creative project does.

“[Creative people] have found the thing they love, but they’ve also built up the skill in it to be able to get into the flow state,” says Kaufman. “The flow state requires a match between your skill set and the task or activity you’re engaging in.”


15. They surround themselves with beauty

Lars Van De Goor

Photo Credit: Lars van de Goor

Creatives tend to have excellent taste, and as a result, they enjoy being surrounded by beauty.

A study recently published in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts showed that musicians — including orchestra musicians, music teachers, and soloists — exhibit a high sensitivity and responsiveness to artistic beauty.


16. They connect the dots


Photo Credit: Brooke Shaden

If there’s one thing that distinguishes highly creative people from others, it’s the ability to see possibilities where others don’t — or, in other words, vision. Many great artists and writers have said that creativity is simply the ability to connect the dots that others might never think to connect.

In the words of Steve Jobs:

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”


17. They constantly shake things up

Adam Moran

Photo Credit: Adam Moran

Diversity of experience, more than anything else, is critical to creativity, says Kaufman. Creatives like to shake things up, experience new things, and avoid anything that makes life more monotonous or mundane.

“Creative people have more diversity of experiences, and habit is the killer of diversity of experience,” says Kaufman.


18. They make time for mindfulness

Michael Clark copy

Photo Credit: Michael Clark

Creative types understand the value of a clear and focused mind — because their work depends on it. Many artists, entrepreneurs, writers and other creative workers, such as David Lynch, have turned to meditation as a tool for tapping into their most creative state of mind.


And science backs up the idea that mindfulness really can boost your brain power in a number of ways. A 2012 Dutch study suggested that certain meditation techniques can promote creative thinking. And mindfulness practices have been linked with improved memory and focus, better emotional well-being, reduced stress and anxiety, and improved mental clarity — all of which can lead to better creative thought.



In Search Of The Perfect Portrait – Exclusive Interview With Mark Seliger


Mark Seliger is one of the top portrait photographers in the world. His career spans thirty years and in this time he has photographed some of the biggest names in music, politics, business and entertainment. Interviewing him was fascinating. Who has inspired him? What would he say to his younger self if he could go back to when he was just starting out, and which photographer would he choose to takehis portrait, if given the chance?

Mark Seliger doesn’t often provide interviews, and isn’t a big name in the education circuit, making the opportunity to speak to him absolutely fascinating. If you are wondering who he is, here is a quick run down…


He was Chief Photographer for Rolling Stone Magazine from 1992 to 2002, where he shot over 150 covers. He works for Conde Nast Publications, is regularly published and provides covers for some of the biggest names in the magazine and editorial world. He has photographed subjects that span the spectrum of global leaders, influencers, celebrities and artists alike. He’s directed music videos, published several books, shot for some of the largest global commercial brands in the world, and is the host of the award winning “Capture” photography interview show on the Ovation Network.

A busy guy indeed, and somewhere amongst all this even managed to squeeze in time to shoot this fellow…


Like so many other accomplished photographers before him, Mark is much more than just a portrait photographer. Although he is probably most known for his portraiture, his work continues to cross genres including landscapes, still life, fashion, documentary and nudes (his book “Listen” covers much of this ground).

Next month, Mark he will be making a very rare appearance at the Stand Out Photographic Forum in LA on October 15th where he will be talking about his career and approach. (For a limited time, use the code FSTOPPERS to gain free entry to the Forum talks)

Ahead of this event, I had the unique opportunity to tackle a few questions with Mark. The focus of this interview was to cover as much of what makes Mark the photographer he is today, to enable an understanding of the ingredients that have made up his success story, and provide us something small to take away from his experiences to apply to our own careers.


Fstoppers: Can you describe the essence of what portrait photography is to you?

Mark: Its about having an experience with a subject and being able to capture a moment with them, to find some way to illustrate an emotional response to who they are and what they are. It’s really a very quick experience, because most people lose interest quickly, and as a photographer, it’s all about how you confront and deal with that.

Q - 0061 R.Stafford Peale - Appreciation in any form

Fstoppers: How do you get your subjects to trust you and to relax?

Mark: Trust comes from being able to instruct them in what you want them to do. Communicating what it is you want without it getting too esoteric, about how you see the photograph, and see them in it, which helps develop some sense of collaboration. This sense of ease develops over a period of time, as you move into the shoot and the specifics of posing and movement. Then it’s all about communicating, directing and instruction.


Fstoppers: How do you find “the moment” when the photo is as you see it in your head, and how do you keep pushing towards it when you haven’t quite got there yet?

Mark: There is this interesting intersection where everything is aligned – the emotion in the photography and the beauty of body language.  It’s important to try not to push things where it becomes tedious. For [the cover shot of] “Listen”, part of the journey was that these images were not laborious, or time consuming, they came from a place of letting the photo come to me and just finding it in that way.


Fstoppers: If you could go back and talk to yourself when you were just starting out, what would you advise yourself to do differently?

Mark: That world has changed so much – probably my advice would be to have a sense of tactile experience with photography, don’t be afraid of the process and what makes it interesting. Don’t be afraid of the evolution of the technology. Photograph what you are interested in. Find your own way of saying what you want to say. Push yourself to find that voice and allow that freedom to come about without expectation of what other people are doing. To me, that’s a really healthy way of having your own personal style and being able to communicate what you want to say in your images.

When you [make] a photo that is memorable, it also becomes apparent to you as a photographer that you have done something original. You have to really practice being original and not being influenced by the millions of images we see.


Fstoppers: Which photographer(s) do you feel has provided the biggest source of your own inspiration, and if you could have one photographer take a portrait of you, who would that be?

Mark: I had a great teacher by the name of James Newberry, who helped cement the history of photography early on for me, so my influences are grown from a variety of different areas. I was really inspired from my humble beginnings by a mix of people; Arnold Newman, Robert Frank, Cartier-Bresson, Edward Weston and Paul Caponigro.

I actually went into magazine photography as a way to allow me find the balance between having a voice, and being a conceptual photographer, to come up with my own ideas, and this was really my introduction to being a working photographer. Some of my heroes have not necessarily gone down a commercial path, a lot simply took photos for themselves. I really try to balance two things – working in an applied way and working in a way so that the photos are mine.

If I had the opportunity to have my own portrait done by anyone, it would be Robert Frank.


Fstoppers: What are your thoughts on personal projects, and the importance of them?

Mark: I’m always working on personal work, be it a book or series of photographs. Being a photographer, and I know many of my friends who are like this feel the same, it’s kind of like an obsessive lifestyle, you really have to accept the fact that it’s not just a job. It’s hard to get away from it. Most people I know in this world are like this.

First seen on FStoppers.



Congratulations to Chris Burkard, this weeks Featured Photographer at The Open.

Meet Chris Burkard:

I am 27 years old and live in the small town of Pismo Beach, California. I have served as a freelance photographer for various publications and a staff photographer for Surfer magazine and My passion for photography came about when I picked up a camera at a goodwill auction six years ago. I have always aimed to document the lifestyle of the sport more than the action, also focusing on the pulled back perspective to give the viewer a feeling like they are in the moment.

My inspiration comes from landscape photography and unique lighting situations. I have always tried to capture a landscape perspective in my action sports images to show the natural arenas in which the athletes find themselves.

Unique lighting and silhouettes are my specialty. My goal is to capture my subject in the photo so that they aren’t dated by logos or any certain era. I like my images to remain timeless and hopefully be appreciated by someone at any age.

Check out Chris’ full body of work.


About This Photo: It’s hard to tell, but this is prime beach front property in Norway. Keith Malloy and Dane Gudauskas make the long walk through a blizzard that cut their surf session short.



About This Photo: Keith Malloy reaches out to an unridden Tahitian barrel as he enjoys the waves from a new perspective.



About This Photo: Looking for an opening between the ice, Dion Agius prepares to paddle out amidst the raw Icelandic coast.



About This Photo: Icelandic ponies wander the black sand beach towards the ocean in the Southeast of Iceland. The Arctic is a majestic place full of natural beauty from snow capped mountains to glaciers and waterfalls. It’s scenes like this that takes that beauty to a whole new level.



About This Photo: Alex Gray lets his fins loose amidst the Alaskan wilderness. The remoteness of the places I travel in Alaska often leave me to searching with a boat or by mix of planes, cars, and atvs. It was actually pretty surreal to trek a few hours through some of the most untouched nature I’ve seen only to stumble upon waves.



About This Photo: With no roads to the ocean we relied on ATV to travel the distance from the village to the coast. As we crested the final hill we were treated not only with a view of the distant snow covered volcano, but a point with waves peeling down its right side. It was a moment I had hoped for, but didn’t expect to see. Clean waves and a clear day in a place known as the ‘cradle of storms’. Surfer Josh Mulcoy carves on this wave, a speck amidst the empty Aleutian coastline.



About This Photo: Surfing in 40 degree water in the Lofoten Islands, Norway. With towering mountains and the dramatic sun seeping color in from behind the clouds, Dane Gudauskas, does his best to stand out amidst the untamed Arctic coastline.



About This Photo: Reid Jackson is either fearless or crazy. I feel that this moment shows a little bit of both as he takes a skinny dip into an ice lake.



About This Photo: Pete Devries watches as Alex Gray hits the lip of a wave in the Aleutian Islands. Whenever you are in a place with such a remote nature every angle and spot you shoot looks like another planet. Part of why I love traveling to these remote destinations is it puts nature as the star of the images and the surfers as just small objects within the beauty that surrounds them.



About This Photo: The greenery in the northwest is everywhere from the mountains to the coast. At a small cove in Southern Oregon a surfer checks the wave potential from a bluff.



About This Photo: Some destinations are harder to find then others. Eric Soderquist prepares to hop from one pond to another.



About This Photo: Keith Malloy warms up post surf in what Norwegians referred to as a “stump”. To everyone else it was the wooden jacuzzi that brought life back into frozen limbs.


About This Photo: Keith Malloy takes a moment to learn about the local Nicaragua farming practices.

What to Automate and How in Social Media

PeopleWhen I was in elementary school, my wardrobe was fully automated. I had a certain pair of sweatpants for Mondays, jeans for Tuesdays, Zubaz for Wednesdays, and so on. It was quite the system for a fourth-grader!

Automation has been a big part of my life ever since. I love to find helpful ways to work smarter—anything to shave an extra few minutes off my day. Automation, when done right, scratches this itch perfectly.

The same holds for automation of one’s social media marketing. There are huge efficiencies to unlock here, but at the same time, there remains one big question: “How do you automate your social media presence and stay in the conversation with your audience?”

Curious for myself, I researched and delved into this question of automation and came up with some intriguing answers. Based on that, here’s a strategy to achieve social media automation done right—both efficient and engaged.

Social media marketing should not begin and end with automation

Have you seen the infomercials for the Ronco rotisserie oven? Happy chefs throw all kinds of food into this oven, they turn the dial, and the audience cheers in unison, “Set it and forget it!” It makes for a convincing sales pitch for a kitchen appliance, but as far as a motto for digital marketing? Not so much.

Social media is not a rotisserie oven. Please don’t set it and forget it.Not an Oven

Instead, I like to imagine social media automation as more like baking cookies. When the cookies go in the oven your work isn’t over—you check on the progress, maybe you prepare the next batch. You remain engaged from beginning to end. The same should be the case for your social media accounts.

Automate what you can while still remaining engaged on a consistent basis.

The goal of automation is not to remove work entirely but rather to help you work more efficiently. Automation can take your daily social media work from a few hours to 30 minutes, perhaps, allowing you the ability to use your time wisely:

With proper use of social media automation, you can make your time spent on your social media online marketing as productive and profitable as possible.

With that in mind, let’s begin.

The simple system for automating social media

Once you realize that automation and conversation go hand-in-hand, you can truly work to build an efficient, effective process. Here are four steps to starting your well-rounded automation plan:

  1. Understand when to automate and when to engage
  2. Choose your tools for automation
  3. Find your ideal automation schedule
  4. Create ways to stay tuned in to the conversation

Step 1: Understand when to automate

Automation can be a little addicting. Once you unlock efficiencies in one area, it is tempting to keep going until you’ve mastered your entire workflow. With social media, it’s important to resist the temptation—not everything is meant to be automated. Even big brands have struggled with understanding when and how to walk the fine line of automation and engagement. Progressive famously failed at automation by sending automatic responses to users trying to engage the company on a controversial topic.


And Progressive is far from the only company to have problems understanding the difference between when to automate and when to engage. Here are some ideas about when you’ll find it best to schedule ahead of time and when it is best to do the work manually.

Automate your content curation

Add-textFinding and sharing great content online is a useful way to build a brand and an audience on social media. Automation helps this process in two ways: It provides a means of posting these updates at the best times for your audience, whether you’re around or not, and it frees you up to have more time to find amazing content to share.
What’s a good rule of thumb for content sharing? You’ll likely find a golden ratio for your particular audience based on your social analytics, but if you’re in the mood for experimenting, here’s an interesting one I found: the 5-3-2 rule of social media sharing, proposed by TA McCann. The rule states that for every 10 updates you post to a social media channel,

  • 5 should be content from others, relevant to your audience
  • 3 should be content from you, relevant to your audience—and not a sales pitch
  • 2 should be personal, non-work related content that helps humanize you and/or your brand

The result of maintaining a schedule like this leads you to focus on your audience moreso than on yourself. In that sense, the system is more a way to ensure that you stay on point with your marketing—whether you follow it to a T is less important as whether or not you’re maintaining the right message.

Automate your non-urgent social media posts

Beyond content curation, most social media users will find themselves sharing thoughts, quotes, retweets, and more through their network of choice. You could imagine these being the “personal” notes in the 5-3-2 rule mentioned above. Provided these posts are not time sensitive, these would make perfect sense to automate and schedule.


(Buffer users may have noticed that quotes are part of the daily content suggestions we curate to aid your scheduling queue. You can add and automate with a click of a button.)

Automate your RSS

Bloggers generally want to share their latest posts to as many social places as possible, and since almost everything that ends up on the blog ends up on social media, automation is helpful here. You can automate so that new posts get transmitted directly into your social media channels. The only catch here is that you’ll want to check the formatting of everything before you set this process in motion. Just be aware to stay in tune with feedback from your audience. Blind blasting of RSS content can scream automation, which can be a turnoff to your social audience.

At Buffer, we like to post multiple times about the new content that appears on the blog because it gives us a chance to try out new headline structures and to reach a larger percentage of our followers throughout the day. Automation makes it so that we can do this process all at once rather than popping in and out every few hours when it’s time to post again.

Automate your marketing flows

Many big businesses have flows and funnels that begin with social media—lead capture from tweets, product improvements from social suggestions, troubleshooting, feedback, and more. If it makes sense to you, automate these to cut down on the work it takes to manage these social accounts. For instance, if you can trigger a lead generating process each time you favorite a tweet, you’ve made the job that much easier.

Buffer Schedule

Do NOT automate customer interactions

As in the case of the Progressive example above, automating customer interactions can lead to some really bad experiences. Many busy companies might be tempted to automate simple responses like “thanks,” but anything more than that is a dangerous game.

Plus, customers appreciate unique and individual responses on social media, and many of them love social media as much as they do because of these interactions specifically. When you take the human out of social media, it isn’t all that social anymore. Automating customer interactions might never lead to bad press like Progressive, but it can have damaging effects on engagement and reputation nonetheless. Customers can tell when they’re dealing with an assembly line instead of a human.

Do NOT automate troubleshooting

In a similar vein, troubleshooting should generally be left to real people and real interactions. There may be opportunities to streamline communication if there is a common problem that can be fixed with a simple answer, but even then, it is best to always run it by a human first. When the customer is already inconvenienced by a problem with your product, it makes things that much worse to compound the problems with a robotic response.

Step 2: Choose your automation tools

Organize your social sharing with Buffer

Buffer lets you connect your Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn accounts so that you can create queues of content that get sent at the times you choose. Tools like this are incredibly helpful for automating social sharing and content curation as you can place all your good finds here and let Buffer handle the rest. (Try the Buffer browser extension for a truly supercharged experience.)


Connect your apps with IFTTT and Zapier

Tools like IFTTT and Zapier are heaven-sent for automation. These services connect apps with one another to create a call-and-response chain of action. For instance, you can connect your blog’s RSS feed and your Twitter, Facebook, G+ and LinkedIn accounts so that every time you publish a new post your social account gets updated as well. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Both places allow you to browse their long lists of possibilities so you can find something useful for you. Potential recipes include automated systems for favoriting tweets and sending them to Buffer, archiving to Dropbox whenever you are tagged in a Facebook photo, and saving articles to read later directly from favorite social media posts.

Here is how the process might look if you were to connect your IFTTT with your blog:


Step 3: Find your ideal posting schedule

Tools like Buffer let you throw all your great finds into a queue and space out your posts accordingly throughout the day or week. By default, the well-spaced schedule hits your audience at sensible times throughout the day. But let’s say you want to get ultra-specific on what times are indeed best for posting to social media. There are certainly a number of criteria to consider:

  • What time zones are the majority of your fans located?
  • When do your posts most often get clicked and shared?
  • When are you around to respond to interactions with your content?

The first two elements of timing can be hacked with helpful tools like SocialBroFollowerwonk and Tweriod. These sites can analyze your followers to tell you when your audience is around during the day and when they are highly engaged on social media, both with your content and with others. Here is a Tweriod graph for when I can expect my Twitter followers to be online:

Followers Online


In addition, here are some helpful stats passed on by Social Media Examiner that can help you understand when the majority of people will be online to chat:

  • Twitter engagement for brands is 17% higher on weekends (Dan Zarrella).
  • Users are 181% more likely to be on Twitter during their commute (Dan Zarrella).
  • Retweets have been shown to be highest around 5 pm (Kissmetrics).
  • The best time to maximize your click-through rate (CTR) from Twitter is 1–3 pm (Raka).

As far as timing for when you’re around to respond, that one’s up to you. It wouldn’t be much fun to miss out on relevant conversations based on content you posted while you were sleeping, so keep this in mind when you’re scheduling.

Step 4: Create a system for staying in the conversation

Just the fact that you are performing this step in the process is a good sign. Desiring to stay in the conversation will be beneficial for whatever system you end up installing.

Use Mention to track yourself and your brand on social media

Mention is a superpowered version of Google Alerts that you can use to track your name across websites, blogs, and social media channels. Mention searches and finds any instance whatsoever where you or your brand are mentioned, and you can reply and engage straight from the Mention dashboard. Like Google Alerts, you can be updated via email when you receive a mention; I’ve opted for a daily email to bring me up to speed on who’s saying what. It’s a hand-delivered opportunity for personal engagement with an audience.


Turn on notifications so you’re aware of opportunities

Twitter, Facebook, and the like have the capability to notify you of virtually anything that happens to your account. Often times, these notification settings are one of the first things users turn off, especially once the scope of emails becomes apparent. I’m not suggesting that you opt-in to every single email from your social media channels, but it’s definitely worth a look to see which alerts and notifications might be helpful.

For instance, I have chosen to be notified for almost everything Twitter-related as I seek to build relationships there. From the list of options, I’ve only turned off the notification for new followers, and even with that, I check the list daily in order to reciprocate those who have followed.

Set aside time to dive into the stream and engage

Of course, the best way to stay in the stream of social media conversation is to roll up your pantlegs and wade on in.

One way to do this is to schedule a block of time each day to visit your social media profiles. At Buffer, we lovingly call this the “drive-by.” You can use this time any number of different ways to engage with your community. Respond to comments, post spontaneously, engage in what others are posting, etc. Since automation is saving you time with posting, you should have a little extra time to make a drive-by one of your daily habits.

Avoid the pitfalls of automation

Beyond the four step process for a social media automation strategy, there are a few other best practices to be aware of when it comes to scheduling and automating your online presence.

Customize your messages for different networks

As you’re crafting your content queue, remember who’s on the other end of all this work: your audience. What’s best for them?

You may find that on Twitter it is best to be brief, whereas Google+ enjoys a lengthier message.

Different styles work better on different networks. Why not aim for distinct messages for each of the social networks you share? Have a style for Twitter, one for Facebook, one for Google+, etc.

Simply plugging in set messages to be spread across all your social media platforms can sometimes look insincere and robotic. But if a user sees how much thought you place into creating unique messages across different platforms, imagine what an impression it would make.

Don’t schedule too far in advance

The goal with automation is to fill your queue so that you can focus your energy elsewhere—finding great content to share, responding to customers’s needs, brainstorming new ways to take over the world. That being said, there can be such a thing as too much scheduling.

Be careful not to schedule too far out in advance. Doing so might lead to your missing/forgetting the message behind your sharing. You could end up with untimely content that made sense two weeks ago but doesn’t on the day it goes live. Schedule your posts for a week or so out, but by all means dive in daily for spontaneous updates as you see fit.

Stay abreast of current events

When automating, it’s important to be aware of what’s going on in the world around you. The Hurricane Sandy example is probably the most recent instance where current events dramatically changed the context for thousands of social media users. Another good example—in a positive way—is that of Oreo and its response to the power outage during the Super Bowl.

Be prepared to hit the pause button

When big news does strike, it’s important to be prepared to hit pause on all your automation instances. Buffer lets you tick off the days you want to stop your posts, and similar scheduling programs also allow for a fullscale halt if the situation requires it.


Hopefully you see the advantages of automation and the symbiotic relationship automation has with conversation. One cannot be as effective without the other. Automation benefits from conversation because you have a more engaged group of followers. Conversation benefits from automation because you are freed to spend more time engaging with those who matter. Begin by figuring out what is best to automate, and be sure to end with a good balance of scheduling and conversing. While it might be easiest to automate it all, you’ll find that being part of the conversation will pay dividends in the long run.

Written by Kevan Lee from Buffer.


Congratulations to Thierry Bornier, this week’s Featured Photographer at The Open.

Meet Thierry Bornier :

Thierry Bornier is a French photographer specialized in china Landscapes who doesn’t came from a traditional path in this industry. Graded with an MBA in finance, he started his life working as a Chief Financial Officer in an international fashion company in New York from 2001-2008.

His passion in photography has evolved in both avenue to capture the moment of truth in high fashion and landscape. When Thierry started traveling he found southwest China compose the most beautiful landscapes where he call home in Yunnan. In 2008 and until now he never rest his desire of working as a Photographer.

Published in National Geography few times and winner Award of One eyeland in 2012 and 2013.












THE OPEN’s Craig Parry dishes out his secrets for capturing award winning water photography. Above water and underwater.  In this article he discusses the equipment required and how to get that award-winning image.

Underwater Photography

A small water proof HD camera is an excellent way to get started in water photography. You don’t need to worry about camera settings or swimming with heavy equipment allowing you to focus on composing the image and getting use to the movements of the ocean. Other than the camera you will need: fins / mask / sunscreen and a lot of patience! Once you have decided to take your water photography to the next level you may want to invest in some professional equipment.

Palms by Craig Parry

The image above was taken with a Nikon D4s / 16mm f2.8 Fisheye lens / Aquatech Delphin water housing.


How to capture this underwater photo

  1. First, the conditions need to be perfect. Sunny and a small swell running. The reason is there needs to be very little movement of the sand as the larger swells will stir the oceans floor up which very easily makes the water dirty.
  2. Positioning yourself for the image is crucial. You need to be behind the waves and be very still as any movement will create ripples and ruin your image.
  3. Once in position, get your camera settings right. Your best setting is a fast shutter speed. This allows you to freeze every piece of detail without getting any motion blur from this fast moving subject. Your aperture should be over f7 as this will allow your vision to be sharp beyond the foreground of the sand to be in focus.
  4. Your ISO setting in your camera that makes it more sensitive to light is best kept under 400. Anything higher will start creating unwanted noise.
  5. Be aware that photographing under the water magnifies everything. Either leave your focus on auto or pre-focus under water on a static subject. I usually focus around 1 meter away from the camera.
  6. With your camera now adjusted your ready to shoot. Wait for the waves to come and under you go. The mask comes in handy as you can see what is happening around you, and snap away.

Above water photos

natures curtain by Craig Parry

Natures Curtain (Fiji) Captured using Nikon D3 Aquatech waterhousing and 16mm fisheye lens


How to capture waves

Capturing the motion of a wave above the water has become very popular over the past few years. Here’s the steps on how to do it properly and stand out from the rest. The image above was captured using a 16mm fisheye lens. The reason I used the fisheye is because it exaggerates the curve of the wave and it also allows you to capture a lot of detail in the frame. It also does a good job of capturing colour. As for the previous water image this one also requires a fast shutter speed this image in particular has been captured at 1/1000 sec and the aperture was f7.1 with the ISO 250. Taking images of waves barreling requires a lot of practice and knowledge of the ocean.

Preparation for photographing waves on the surface using a fisheye lens.

There are a couple of important things I have learnt over the years. The most asked question I get is how to keep the water from beading on the lens port. The answer is simple. Lick your port, let it dry and don’t touch it with your fingers. If you do it’ll leave oil on it and you’ll have nothing but beads of water. If you notice the water still beading a little bit when you’re in the water keep on lickin’. It will eventually stop.

Get your focus set before heading out in the water. When photographing a wave with a fisheye anything focused further than 1 meter from the camera with an aperture of f7 or greater is generally going to make your image in focus from foreground to background. A fisheye lens has a large depth of field due to its wide angle. Once you’re all set up its time to check for currents and shallow reefs. Make sure before you head out you get to know the movements of that particular break. Its also wise to head out with a buddy. Once you’re out in the line up, position yourself in the impact zone. This is the only way you’re going to get the SHOT! This is were it takes practice. Positioning yourself in the sweet spot of the wave is the secret of an amazing image.

About Craig Parry

Photography is my passion and capturing nature and movement is my life. My gallery is in Lennox Head where its just ticked over 4 years old. If you’re in Australia and near Lennox drop in and say g’day. I have been using a camera now for over 20 years to capture the world. Head over to his site for more incredible award winning work. Craig Parry in hawaii

backlight by Craig Parry

Energy by Craig Parry

Shellswirl by Craig Parry

Kate by Craig Parry

dolphin close up by Craig Parry

Are you interested in contributing your expertise? Get in touch with us, we’d love to hear from you. leah [at]


Congratulations to Peter Lik, this weeks Featured Photographer at The Open.

Meet Peter Lik:

Peter Lik stands at the summit of landscape photography. World-renowned, highly awarded, and boasting a huge international following, Lik’s journey had humble origins. Born in Melbourne, Australia, to Czech immigrants, it was his parents’ gift of a Kodak Brownie camera on his eighth birthday that set young Peter’s course.

Entirely self-taught, Lik worked hard at his craft before making a life-changing decision: to come to the United States in 1984. He was introduced
to the medium format panoramic camera and given the advice “Go big or go home.”

Lik did both. He returned to Australia to photograph the vastness of the Great South Land. Peter then went on to open his own fine art publishing company as well as his first gallery in his adopted hometown of Cairns.

He has sold hundreds of millions of dollars of his artwork, has 15 galleries of his own and counts presidents and celebrities among his many collectors.

Now at the top of his game, Peter Lik is “loving it!” at full throttle and the animated Aussie is showing no signs of slowing down.


Seeing the shafts of light in the canyon is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. It was a surreal feeling being surrounded by the towering cliffs. Torrential record rainfalls had flooded the entire gorge. This river was ripping through there and one wrong move or one log would put me over the edge. Adrenaline really kicked in and the sight of the weeping walls blew my mind. I waded neck high in the freezing snowfall water an inch at a time, backpack over my head through a massive loll in the river. I knew I had to get to a shallow portion of the river to unfold my tripod. The scene was electric. I was drenched from head to toe by the falling water. The river echoed madly in the canyon.  I found my place and somehow set up the camera in the middle of the river, directly from my backpack. Mist and rain covered the cacamera, but I fired a few shots. The sun broke through for a few seconds and cast God’s rays into the side lit waterfall. I took three frames and it was gone. What a place, a challenge, a shot.

Allure by Peter Lik



Endless Summer

The California coast is a truly magical place and I really wanted to capture that on film. This pier held a strong composition for me, blending man-made architecture with nature. Long summer days covered the La Jolla coast with a blanket of mist that I thought would never lift. For days I didn’t even see the sun and I was really starting to “lose it.” I needed back-lit color to shoot this, giving depth and clarity to the converging lines of the pier. Shooting beneath the pier gave the image a unique perspective. Finally I was rewarded when I returned to this magic place for the seventh night. There was a narrow window of opportunity as I could see the sky closing in again. I only needed a few seconds! I frantically set up the camera and fired off a series of shots. The clouds moved quickly and a brief burst of color filled the sky. The wait was worth it. I walked away with the image that had been eluding me. Photography. Love it! And I’m glad to share that feeling with you.

Endless Flow by Peter Lik


Seventh Wonder

The Grand Canyon is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. I needed an exceptional image to display its magnificence. My first challenge was to discover a place of true presence – to showcase the grandeur and scale of this wonderland. I’ve visited the South Rim numerous times but never got the shot I was chasing. I love the perspective from this point, I just needed Mother Nature to cooperate.
Setting up on the 4,000 foot sheer vertical cliffs was such a rush – to see such a majestic landscape in front of me blew my mind. After four days of coming back to the same location, a storm finally rolled in – and answered my prayers. Now it was pressing that shutter at the perfect moment. I was going to wait for the sun to descend a little lower – but pure instinct kicked in and I knew the moment was now. I took the shot, and it paid off. Seconds later the sun was gone – and so was the shot. Now I had time to breathe. I stood there in total awe of what I had just witnessed.

Seventh Wonder by Peter Lik



Endless Flow

I constantly push the boundaries of photography—searching for that radical angle or abstract form that makes you think. The ever-changing moods and dancing shadows of Antelope Canyon were all happening early this morning beneath the earth’s surface. I shot many abstracts, but pushed the boundaries for something special. As I set up my tripod, pressed against the canyon walls, the surreal underwater-looking scene came to vision. The reflected light cast bright ocher hues around the canyon. I could see a dolphin diving into the ocean, and rippling waves beneath him. The moment was perfect. I pressed the shutter and the long exposure absorbed the scene. The abstract I was searching for finally unveiled itself for me.

Endless Flow by Peter Lik




Congratulations to Hengki, this weeks Featured Photographer at The Open.

Meet Hengki Koentjoro:

Born in Semarang, Central Java, Indonesia, on March 24, 1963. He is a graduate of the Brooks Institute of Photography, Santa Barbara, California, where he majored in video production and minored in the fine art of photography.


1. Black & White Single Image Contest 2013, for a Spotlight Award.

2. Black and White Spider Awards 2013
2nd place – Merit of Excellent in Silhouette Category

3. Black and White Spider Awards 2013
1st place – Outstanding Achievement in Nature Category

4. Worldwide Photography Gala Awards – WPGA 2013
1st place in Seascape/Underwater Category

5. Paris PX3 2013 – 3rd place in Fine Art Category

6. Kontinent Awards 2013 – Official Selection in Fine Art Projects

7. Hasselblad Master 2014 1st Place Winner in Landscapes/Nature category

Support all the artists and vote for your favourite photos











Do Good Stories Trump Good Photos? HONY, Selby and More

Photos have been historically considered as a means to record history. But the proliferation of digital devices and social media have turned photography into a visual language. Photos go viral for a multitude of reasons (e.g. humor), but it’s often stories that effectively communicate a story that resonate with our humanness and humanity. I’ve recently come across two examples where good stories arguably beat out better photos as shown by the viral spread throughout social media. Do you agree?

The Sartorialist, The Selby and Humans of New York

It would be laughable to debate the success of any of these blogs and the photographers behind them. Scott Schumann effectively created the genre of fashion blogger with The Sartorialist in 2005, and utilized shallow depth-of-field and environmental portraiture to create an oft-repeated style.

But the story is the same with each photo — i.e. there is no story. It’s street fashion with no context other than where and when the photo was taken. His early photography isn’t great, but his eye and technique dramatically improved over time leading to photos like this one: Thoroughly well-composed, well-exposed and a lovely portrait of a man in his sartorial best.



Photo by The Sartorialist

Todd Selby started photographing his artist friends in their homes or workspaces in 2008 for The Selby. As word got around, requests for shoots started to flood in, and he parlayed this success into books and ad campaigns for brands like Cole Haan, Nike, Louis Vuitton and more.

Unlike Schumann’s solitary portrait, Selby publishes a set of photos from the portrait to an environmental detail, and finally includes a hand drawn interview sheet that better conveys the personality of the subject. Selby is arguably the better photographer with better stories, but the stories are often about an artistic elite making them less relatable to the everyman. Here is typical environmental portrait of Terence Koh and Garrett Gott.


Photo by Todd Selby

The unemployed NY transplant, Brandon Stanton, started Humans of New York (HONY) in 2010 on a quest to document “create an exhaustive catalogue of New York City’s inhabitants” with the intent of photographing 10,000 New Yorkers. Four years later, his Facebook followers exceed the population of New York City. Of the three blogs, it is arguably the most viral (not necessarily the most commercially successful), while having the worst photography. That isn’t to say it’s bad photography, but there’s no denying that Selby is far more consistent in producing good photography than Stanton.

Take this recent photo from Stanton’s trip to Iraq as a part of a UN World Tour. The image isn’t particularly sharp, there are tons of distracting background elements, the high key areas of the photo pull your eye away from the subject. But here’s the story:

“My happiest moments are whenever I see my mother happy.”
“What’s the happiest you’ve ever seen her?”
“When I was a child, some German doctors told us that I could have a surgery in Italy, and my legs would work again. She was so happy she started crying. But I never had the money to go.” (Erbil, Iraq)


Photo by Brandon Stanton

HONY resonates with a large audience because its stories are more universal despite frequent criticism. Whether or not he slices and dices his interview to come up with more compelling dialogue is irrelevant to his superior story telling abilities.

He knows how to tug on your emotions. One can argue that it is the captions and not the photos that make HONY successful, but that is a technicality in my opinion. Many photos — even the best — require a caption to understand context.

Jen Davis & Haley Morris-Cafiero

Yale MFA-recipient Jen Davis started to explore her self-identity and weight with a self-portrait entitled “Pressure Point” in 2002. The exploration continued with her Light Work’s Artist-in-Residence project entitled “Looking and Looking.”

We live in a society that stigamatizes the obese, and her images are an incredible visual document of the confinement that her weight imparts on her physically and psychologically. This image is a technical masterpiece that is reminiscent of Vermeer.


Photo by Jen Davis

It’s seems insensitive to compare the merits of two stories of self-identity and weight against one another. Whether it was a function of timing and the spread of social media or some intrinsic the story, there’s no denying that Haley Morris-Cafiero‘s Wait Watchers had larger virality.

Morris-Cafiero’s images don’t have the technical mastery of Davis. This is partially a function of the style (photojournalism vs “art”), and also reflective of the more experienced Davis. That said, I would argue that her photos evoked a stronger reaction because of the overt bullying and harassment depicted behind her back. Morris-Cafiero’s images are almost homage to Davis. Whereas Davis’s images are quiet and solitary, Morris-Cafiero’s scream at us. Injustice? Bullying? Lose some weight?

Haley Morris Cafiero

Photo by Haley Morris-Cafiero

Purist might lament my point. “A photo should stand on its own!” However, as many people have pointed out, you can be a great photographer but a poor businessperson and fail to succeed. Similarly, in today’s hyper-connected but highly decentralized world of “publishing,” good photography is rarely enough to go viral.

Storytelling is a vital skill for success, and that’s arguably a good thing for photography and photographers because it elevates an aggregation of pixels into a meaningful amalgam of life.

About the author: Allen Murabayashi is the Chairman and Co-founder of PhotoShelter. Allen is a graduate of Yale University, and flosses daily. This article originally appeared here.


Congratulations to Florian, this weeks Featured Photographer at The Open.

Meet Florian Breitenberger:

Growing up in the south of Munich, I was strongly influenced by the Alps. About two years ago, I discovered the pleasure of photography for myself. I‘m spotting most of my motives while skiing in the backcountry or kitesurfing, one of my favourite hobbies.

I love the variety of sports photography: Being on the physical limit and capturing this moment with a photograph, that motivates me to move forward.

Support all the artists and vote for your favourite photos








Is Good, Good Enough Anymore?

It’s been a tough few years and people are frustrated with the state of the industry. Everywhere I turn, people seem to be saying that a photography career isn’t what it used to be and that budgets are tight. Many of the blogs I read and the message boards that I visit all seem to be repeating the same message: There’s no work, there’s no money, and the competition is too intense to succeed. To quote one frustrated photographer, “How do you f’ing make a living shooting pictures anymore?”

While it’s absolutely true that newspapers and magazines have been badly hurt by the economy and that the business of photography has been fragmented, people still need pictures. Just look at the magazine racks at your local bookstore and the sheer number of publications that are shelved there. The ads in those magazines all need pictures and the stories within the magazines also need pictures. People still need photography.

I think the real change that’s occurred is that there’s an ever-increasing number of people who are entering the business and that increase has naturally led to intense competition for the work. People have always loved the idea of shooting pictures as a way of life and many more people are now pursuing photography because the barrier to entry is now virtually non-existent. Technically, anyone can be a photographer these days. And pretty much anyone is.

How did this happen?

D4s_58_1.4_back34r.high_Technology. Technology changed how photographs get made and that same technology is what’s made it possible for the sheer number of photographers to grow so quickly. In the last 30 years, these are just a few of the technologies that have become commonplace: autofocusing, auto-exposures, TTL, motor-drives, digital cameras, Photoshop, RAW captures and the Internet.


What all those things mean is that it’s a snap (pardon the pun) to be a photographer these days. Simply head down to a decent professional camera store, pick up a good Nikon or Canon DSLR, a high-quality zoom, a decent flash and just like that, you’re a photographer. Then, upload your pictures to Flickr or PhotoShelter and instantly, you have a distribution network for your photos. This very process is happening every, single day.

Consider this: In less than two minutes, I can set up my current camera to autofocus, auto-expose, auto-white balance, TTL flash and RAW capture and hand it to my mom (who knows less about photography than I know about brain surgery) and tell her to just point the camera in the general direction of what she wants to shoot and the camera will do the rest.

If she doesn’t get the exposure just right, I’ll fix it for her later in Lightroom. If she doesn’t compose just right, I’ll crop it later in Photoshop because I have so much file size to work with. I won’t have to teach her how to change the film in the camera because the 128GB card will hold about 7600 images — more frames than she will likely shoot during her trip to the beach with her grandson. Finally, I won’t have to really coach her very much on waiting for the “decisive moment,” because at ten frames a second, she’ll likely get plenty of them. The frames that aren’t so decisive, I’ll just drag to the trash icon in the lower right corner of my Mac. Will she make any powerful, innovative, compelling images? Not likely. But the point is she will make consistently usable images and she’ll be happy with them. There will be many, many pictures that are, “good enough.” What I wonder is how many professional photographers are saying something similar about their own photographs.

The question is, if you’re a professional photographer and “good enough” is all you’re striving for, are you really all that surprised that you have so much competition?

sports photographers

Let’s say you want to be a sports photographer. What does it take to be a sports photographer today? Well, you need a camera that can capture the peak action and most high-end DSLRs will do that with the frame rates they offer. You need a telephoto lens that will autofocus faster than you can do it manually and most will do that easily.

You’ll need a few other items to make pictures, but for the most part, you now have all the same technology at your fingertips that every other photographer at the game will have. And that’s the problem. The technology—the cameras and lenses—are the great equalizer. Everyone begins from the sametechnological place now.

That wasn’t true at all just a few years ago. Back then a sports photographer needed to know how to follow focus and be great at it. They would also need a good meter to determine exposure and the quirks of different film emulsions and how to use push-processing when they shot in low-light. But even if they had those skills, once the pictures were processed and ready to be distributed, they were still limited by geography and time. Today, none of that is true. The technology in today’s digital cameras and the connections and speed of the internet make the barriers to entry almost non-existent. The only remaining barrier is access to the game itself. And even that is easily overcome.

For example, there are many picture agencies that specialize in professional sports imagery. The images that their photographers capture appear in national newspapers and magazines like Sports Illustrated and other major publications. In order to produce images for distribution, they routinely acquire credentials for major events and send photographers out to shoot and pay those photographers little or nothing for hours of work on the sideline. And you know what? They have a line out the door of young photographers who are willing to make that deal—access, in exchange for coverage. The photographers are looking for experience and imagery that will build their portfolio, and the agency owner is looking to profit and grow from that. And this kind of arrangement isn’t something new.

When I was a photojournalism student in college, I wanted access to news events. And the only way I could get that access was with a media credential. So, I made a deal with a small weekly newspaper. If I would cover Friday night football games for $6 perpublished picture, the editor would write a letter to the Los Angeles Police Department on my behalf so that I could get a press pass. Without hesitation, I gladly took the deal.

Once I had my pass, very little was off-limits to me and my camera. I shot warehouse fires and plane crashes and any other news I could get to—for the experience. After about a year, I had some major news events in my book, so I said so long to the weekly and moved on with my pictures. I had gotten the access, improved my portfolio and tasted the news business. Then I drove my portfolio over to a different newspaper and for the next 18 months, my press pass said The Los Angeles Times. Mission accomplished.

The point is to grow. Expand. Push. Take some risks. Shoot something you don’t already know how to shoot. Just keep shooting.

If photographing sports is your thing, outwork everyone else at the game. Because once you realize that everyone else has essentially the same technology in their hands that you do, the only thing that will separate you from the gaggle of other photographers is how hard you’re willing to work to beat them. If you’re assigned a baseball story and you haven’t shot much baseball, study it—even if it’s only on TV. Learn the players and the strategy and whether a certain player has a tendency to break his bat at the plate. While everyone else is showing up 30 minutes before game time, why not get there early to shoot batting practice to get your timing more precise? How about a remote camera in addition to your handheld? How about looking for something other than game action? If you have to do a portrait at the ballpark, how about setting up some lights rather than just bouncing your speed light off the ceiling?

baseball photographer

The most successful photographers do this—and more. A baseball shooter I admire is at spring training right now making great images of the team he works for. He has the same camera and lenses that everyone else has, but his images are better because he knows the game and he outworks everyone else. Another photographer I know shoots Olympic figure skating. He has been known to actually diagram the entire routine of a skater during their practices so that he will know precisely where they will glide, where they will leap and where they are likely to fall. Is it any wonder that he rarely misses the shot—or that he is the go-to guy for figure skating?

My inspiration whenever I feel like cutting a corner or leaving a case of lights behind is to remember that there is always a cubicle job that will be glad to have me if the photography gig is too demanding and competitive. That terrifying thought has inspired me to drag six cases of lights through an airport more than once when I needed to kick myself in the ass. And I’ve never, ever said to myself, “Gee, I’m glad I took the easy way, left all the lighting gear behind and just brought my on-camera strobe.” The pictures are always better when you push yourself harder.

If there is a better way to go through life and earn an honest living than being a photographer, I’m not sure what it could be. It’s like having a ringside seat to anything you want to learn about.

If you want to know more about airplanes, work for Boeing or Gulfstream or Airbus. Love cars? Shoot for car magazines or Lexus or Ferrari. Have a passion for architecture and design? Work for architects or interior designers or the magazines that publish their work. Fanatical about golf? There is an entire industry that needs product shots of clubs and balls and even golf carts. Would you rather be on the course? You can cover tournaments for the PGA, the golf magazines or even shoot PR pictures for companies holding golf outings. If you want to travel all over the world and still be involved in golf, you can make images of courses for the designer or make amazing brochure images for golf resorts.

The work is definitely there in all those spaces and countless others. There is a niche for everyone. Heck, I even know of a guy who makes most of his living shooting nothing but kids scooters. One, single brand of kids scooters. And he does quite well financially too.

The photographers who are shooting the new Boeing planes, or the latest Ferrari, or the golf resort in Hawaii, or the latest scooter designs are not striving to just be “good enough.” If they ever do, someone else is right behind them to take their spot.

I teach every year at a workshop in Colorado and while I’m there I look at portfolios along with picture editors from Sports Illustratedand the New York Times as well as photographers from university athletic programs, international magazines and global wire services. Typically, out of about fifty portfolios each year, three or four stand out from the rest. Those photographers—without exception—are the one’s for who “good enough,” never is. They push. They reach. They grow. They push even harder. It shows very clearly in their pictures. And I remember each photographer’s name, where they are from and I follow their work. The pictures are that good.

Occasionally, a photographer just has a natural gift of vision and every image looks different than anything you’ve ever seen before. Those photographers are rare and they are the one’s that have the most potential to really make their mark in this profession. In twelve years of looking at portfolios, I’ve met only three people who had that rare and special eye. The images are the kind that make you cock your head and linger for a while on each image and wonder how and why they saw that subject in just that way. I make a point to follow those photographers too because I hope that someday I might learn to see as well as they see.

squirrel on camera

The desire to be a photographer, to some, can be similar to the desire to be an actor or a novelist or a rock star. The dream is more often the focus than the hard work that’s needed to get there. The idea of walking the red carpet at the Oscars, or being a solitary writer on a tropical island, or performing in front of thousands of screaming fans at a sold out concert, or shooting from the pit at the Indy 500 can be powerful visions. To get there, and stay there, takes desire and drive and risk and perseverance — in both those other professions and in photography. And the fear of ending up in a cubicle is probably as great a motivator as any.

But, it’s worth the effort. You find yourself in places and with people that you would never get to meet if you were in the cubicle. And, you create photographic souvenirs of each experience along the way. It’s the ringside seat to everyday life that makes photography truly worth the effort to be more than “good enough.”

About the author: Joey Terrill is an advertising and editorial photographer with clients that include American Express, Coca-Cola, Disney, ESPN, Golf Digest, Major League Baseball and Sports Illustrated. Visit his website here. Terrill also writes about photography at The Penumbra Project, where this article originally appeared.



About the Shot:

Professional snowmobile rider Emil Ahrling performs a stunning scene with the trick “rock solid” when shooting for a movie in the Swedish mountains.

Meet Per Nilsson:

Freelance photographer from Östersund, Sweden with a passion for action and adventure. Holds a bachelor’s degree in photojournalism.

Check out more of Per’s photography.



About the Shot:

One of the flat-plane matrix images.

Meet Dr. Akira Takaue:

Fortunately experiencing precious opportunities to visit various places around the world for business trip, in which actively would like to pursuit taking impressive worldwide scenery and modern architectures filled with emotional colors with delicate contrast and vibrant composition. My goal is rooted in both the logic of structural mechanics and material engineering as well as the finer artistic elements that make a building and its photograph successful.
Especially being interested in conceptual architectural photography insistent on analytical composition and delicate contrast of structural materials.

Check out more of Dr. Akira’s photography.




About the Shot:

A wildebeest starts a fearful crossing of the Mara River during the migration in Kenya.

Meet Andy Lerner:

Andy Lerner is an accomplished nature & travel photographer, traveling the world to capture images of wildlife underwater, on the ground and the sites along the way. One of Andy’s images was a 2012 Open finalist in the nature category.

Check out more of Andy’s photography.

Vote for your favs and enter your best photos today!



About the Shot:

Long Wharf. Another hidden gem in Noosa. The Jetty has Mangrove trees growing on ether side of the first 30 meters of jetty forming a arch which channels the morning light and on this morning there was some colour in the sky to improve the view.

Meet Andrew McGaughey:

Andrew has been following his passion for photography since he was a child and just old enough to hold his first camera a Kodak pocket Instamatic. Things have come a long way since then. Completely self-taught, he is well known for his ability to produce high quality eye catching landscape photography from both Australia and New Zealand.

Check out more of Andrew’s photography.



About the Shot:

Female wild brown bear walking with its two cubs next to a lake at midnight in Finland giving this incredible reflection and this unique atmosphere.

Meet Chris Schmid:

As an outdoor and travel photographer, my studio is the world outside my door and the only equipment required is a camera and a willingness to look for new actions. Photography is about seeing our surroundings with fresh eye

Check out more of Chris’ photography.