How to be a More Interesting Person

I came across one of the best blog posts I’ve ever read this past week on  But before you jump off to that link, I’d like to share some of my thoughts-about what makes some people interesting – and some not.

  • Talk to people outside your inner circles – I found when I was a student at Brooks Institute, I was frequently bored at the student/photographer parties because all the conversations centered around just photography.  It was a natural topic for discussion but the talk was always about gear and rarely about creative ideas. I found more stimulating conversations outside my peer group which actually helped me creatively with my photography.
  • Be a better listener.  Have you ever had dinner with someone who commanded most of the conversation but followed up later with a note telling you what a great evening they had in your company?  People love to hear themselves talk and for many – great listeners become “interesting people” in the process.
  • Do things and go places where interesting people hang out.  Get out of the house and away from your TV set and interact with people from all walks of life.  I’ve spent a lifetime street shooting for magazines.  My most memorable conversations have been with people I’ve encountered along the way.  These are people who I never would have interacted with normally but those are the conversations that have stayed with me over the years.
  • Be yourself. So many people do things to “fit in”.  They become clones of their environment rather than staying true to themselves. There is nothing interesting about people like that for me.  That’s why I travel and embrace other cultures.
  • Minimize the swagger.  This one is right off the Forbes list but it’s a good one.  No one likes being around folks who are full of themselves and have big egos.  Some groups of people are more prone to this than others – generally people who come from professions where they feel what they do for a living has life or death consequences. Doctors are really the only ones dealing with life or death situations – and quite honestly a lot of doctors I’ve met aren’t very interesting to talk to because many are so self important, they let their egos get in the way.

I hate to make broad strokes but I find artists, filmmakers, musicians, taxi drivers, doormen (and women) and circus people some of the more interesting people to be around.
Get out more – live life fully – try new things – talk to more people and people who aren’t like you at all – be open – be giving – be caring – share – and embrace life every day with joy.

But check out the post – it’s an easy read and will bring a smile to your face.

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Shooting Video in the Field with the Canon 5D Mark II

The first two days of our Round the World Journey, shooting the documentary Opening Our Eyes has been quite full and I’ve faced numerous situations – really putting my tools to the test.

Our first full day was spent at the offices of Wrap Up Africa, which are located in Kampala, Uganda. In addition to shooting b-roll of tailors at work, we shot several interviews. Our main interview was with Wrap Up Africa’s founder, Letha Sandison, followed by interviews of a couple of her staff members. We also did interviews of some of the cancer victims that Letha has helped. Here is where I not only needed to be attentive to my technical details but be sensitive to the situation and the people that I was interviewing. Hearing some of their stories is heartbreaking and hard for many Americans to fathom. Sure, we all watch the travesties taking place throughout the world on the nightly news, but it’s quite another experience to speak with people who have experienced horrendous tragedies in their lives that are simply unimaginable.

One woman, Evelyn who works for Letha had been abducted and held captive by the LRA, which stands for the Lord’s Resistance Army, and is not exactly a charitable group. She managed to escape after most of her family had been killed in front of her. She is now raising three orphans who had been victims as well and works with Letha, helping others.

Our set up was simple and deliberately so. I set up the Canon 5D Mark II and captured my audio separately with the H4N Zoom. I had two mics – one shotgun on a small boom stand and another lav. I will sync them later in post. We chose a room that had ample window light as we are traveling with only a small camera light and nothing else. Our biggest challenge was that the cabinet installer decided to do his work the day we were shooting – so the sounds of hammering and drilling made up our ambient background sound. But the mics were placed close to our subjects and did a pretty good job of boosting their audio above the din of the environment.

The next situation we faced was shooting b-roll in the dirty environments of a potter’s studio and a foundry. Again we used the Zoom to pick up the ambient sound of the environments. After a morning with the artists, we packed up quickly and headed to Mulago Hospital to visit the children’s cancer ward. We were not allowed to shoot video but we did shoot some still images and was happy to have the hybrid cameras that captured beautiful files – far better than frame grabs from a traditional video camera.

Then we headed to the market, which as usual is always a trying experience. For anyone who has traveled to congested third world environments, you know what I mean by “trying experience”. You must be aware of your personal belongings at all times, while shooting and I wish at times that I had eyes in the back of my head. On top of that I’m sensitive to those that don’t want to be photographed. It’s exhausting but at the same time exhilarating because of the exotic nature of the environment. My daughter wore the GoPro Hero helmet cam that is a tiny camera made for adventure sports but she had a lot of fun walking through the market recording the event with running video as we walked through the market.

I was shooting video with the Canon 5D Mark II and used a shotgun mic on top of the camera and run through a JuicedLink audio mixer. I’m embarrassed to say that somehow, even after lots of testing – I came back with no audio! Luckily the helmet cam Hero picked up very good ambient audio so I’m able to use that and layer it in post. In the chaos and confusion of the market, I probably didn’t set it up right and today I will do additional testing so as not to make that mistake in the future. But the video was captured beautifully and I will interweave those clips into the documentary with sound from the interviews and ambient sound from the Hero.

I am realizing one thing though and that there is nothing easy or streamlined when shooting video with these hybrid cameras. The results are stunning, but the shoot and workflow are much more tedious than when shooting with a video camera. Perhaps at the end of this three-month journey, I’ll be singing a different tune – I certainly hope so.

I’ll keep you posted as I get access to the Internet, which is iffy, and we’ve been off line for the last two days. But there’s something humbling about being off the grid and I’m learning to take it in stride and appreciate what I have. Today is Sunday and we are resting and storing up a bit of energy for the coming week. Please read more about our journey at Opening Our Eyes.

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