Education and the Modern Photographer

People say I’m lucky – and yes I do agree. I get to travel world, work with a wonderful team and make my living from my passion. But when it comes down to the quality of the images I produce, that has nothing to do with luck. Over the years I have noticed a correlation between knowledge and image quality. The more I have educated myself, the ‘luckier’ I’ve become.As I am not just the ‘biggest’, but also one of the ‘oldest’ dogs in the yard I have seen the equipment that is available to us as photographers change dramatically over the years. Film has made way for digital, and mega-pixels are no longer limited to single figures. All of the developments that have been made have no doubt made our jobs easier – particularly when it comes to transporting kit for jobs on location. Just recently I was sat in the departure lounge at Bergen airport (for those of you that haven’t been let me tell you it is without doubt the smallest international departure lounge I have ever sat in) thinking to myself that if it wasn’t for micro 4/3 technology, I would be a very unpopular man indeed as the people that I was sharing the space with would be stood outside in the cold due to the fact that my old full frame kit would have filled most of the room. The advances in photographic technology that have allowed for smaller, lighter kit that gives immediate feedback are – let’s face it – a god send, and will no doubt allow me to keep doing what I love for a few more years. The kit that is available today really is fantastic. It works well, and produces image files of a quality that was unimaginable even five years ago. But as good as all of this new equipment is, it couldn’t create anything if it wasn’t for me – or indeed one of you – controlling it. Yes, technology does have its advantages, but for a real grandmaster, technology is only there to augment, facilitate and ease the photographic process. Technology will never render photographers obsolete, it will never replace education and the application of knowledge when it comes to creating ‘grade A’ images.As an old school traditionalist I am a firm believer in knowledge – not kit – being the secret to good photography. A stunning image is not just created by pressing click on a camera. To cross that fine line that separates good and brilliant, a photographer has to take several things in to consideration. Lighting, posing and composition. What story do you want an image to tell? how do you want the image to look? how do you want the image to feel?Lighting an image in the correct way is key. Without the placement of hi-light and shadow in the correct places, a three dimensional story cannot be told through a two dimensional medium. It is highlight and shadow that gives an image depth and makes the subject feel real. Light is definitely the most important aspect of photography. It is no secret that ever since using the Olympus EM5 OM-D and adopting a micro 4/3 system I am on a mission to reduce the size of all of the kit I use, but I can guarantee you that this reduction in size will not come at the cost of sacrificing quality – especially not when it comes to lighting equipment. As much as I love and am amazed by the capabilities of my OM-D it is not the most important bit of kit in my bag, my lights and their modifiers however most definitely are. Whether they be speed lights or a full studio lighting kit, they are massively important. Without them I could not use the secret weapon that is fully responsible for the quality and consistence of my images. What is this secret weapon? Well I will tell you… It is the knowledge of how to control and manipulate light. How can you get this secret weapon for yourself? In the same way that I did, through education and years of practice. Practice makes perfect, it really is that simple.The point I am trying to make, is that it is most definitely not about the kit. Having the gear doesn’t mean you automatically have all of the idea. Knowledge is the secret to being the best photographer that you can be. The camera may take the image, but it is the photographer that creates it. Owning a camera does not make you a photographer, it simply makes you a camera owner.A photographer is born through years of continual training to obtain the technical knowledge needed to create a top quality image and countless hours of practice to fine tune their creative abilities. If I was to give you one ‘top tip’ it would be to take your time. Learn as much as you can and practice what you have learnt at every opportunity. Take your time whilst shooting an image and pay close attention to the fine details. Only press the shutter button when you have created the image you want to capture. Do not rely on Photoshop to rescue an image, it is a tool to be used for enhancement.Now, it’s all very well and good me telling you that the secret to photographic success is knowledge, and that it takes several years of hard work to obtain the knowledge that you will need, but the world is a very real place indeed and sometimes a ‘quick fix’ is needed. Now unfortunately a quick fix isn’t such a quick fix when it comes to photography. There are however ‘fast lanes’ that can help you to develop your level of understanding at a faster rate. If I had to start from the beginning I would most definitely be factoring in education costs in to my plans. Now is a brilliant time to start making a successful career in the profession, partly due to the number of training opportunities available to new photographers. My hat goes off to the SWPP for the work that they put in to organising seminars and training days to help photographers develop. I would strongly encourage those who are new to the profession to listen to the knowledge that the old guard are sharing; after all, we’ve been there, done the job and bought the T-shirt. Learn as much as you can from the best that you can, as my grandma would say, you’re only ever as good as your teacher, so choose wisely and listen carefully.ttfnMcGillicuddy

Self Defense – 8 Phases of an Effective Self-Defense Strategy and Training Program

By far, the greatest thing missing from most martial arts and safety programs focusing on self-defense is a structured and systemized outline that helps to keep the student on track with what he or she needs. Not to be confused with the step-by-step self-defense moves taught in the preset techniques or kata of different styles, or a curriculum that spells out what skills and techniques the student will be learning at what level, what I’m talking about is a formula or outline of the areas of action that make up a complete system for real-world self protection.There are 8 phases, or elements, to a complete self defense strategy. Each element is important in making sure that you have as many options as possible for handling as many different threats and dangers as possible. But, each can be seen as a piece of an overall strategy that allows you the freedom, skill, and ability to control and predict the flow of a dangerous situation and, not only be able to handle it effectively if things get physical, but you’ll also be able to:1) Have many more options for attempting to de-escalate the situation through the use of non-physical self defense2) Use effective cover, concealment, and escape techniques to avoid being targeted by an attacker, and…3) Survive the post trauma and possible legal issues that may come up in the aftermath of a self defense situationAs I teach my serious students looking for self defense mastery, regardless of whether they are focused on traditional ninjutsu – the art of Ninja – or on modern, street fighting self-defense, the 8 Phases of an Effective Self-Defense Strategy and Training Program are:1) General Awareness – awareness of and education about:a. Danger exist in the world and CAN touch you
b. The types of dangers that you are likely to encounter
c. The environments where you are most at-risk2) Situational Awareness – paying attention to and observing the elements and changes in:a. Your surroundings (what weapons, obstacles, and dangers exist or are available to you?)
b. The actions of others (who is acting suspiciously, out of character, or is being overtly threatening?)
c. Your state and well-being (are you alert, healthy, and well or nervous, ill, distracted, or otherwise emotional unbalanced?)3) Escaping to safety – awareness of and pre-planning to be able to:a. Physically escape from a dangerous environment
b. Hide or conceal yourself from a potential attacker
c. Use barriers and other shields that will protect you from incoming gunfire, thrown objects or other weapon attacks4) Psychological Distraction Tactics – confusing or otherwise distracting the attacker’s attention from you as a target. You can do this through the use of:a. Acting (like faking a heart-attack, etc.)
b. Feigning Ignorance (like pretending that you didn’t hear or understand his threats or orders)
c. Using Humor (tell a joke or otherwise act as if the assailant is only playing around or that you’re too easy of a target for him and not worth his effort)5) Dissuasion Tactics – confronting the attacker with direct, committed, verbal and body language cues that both give him a last chance to change his mind, AND communicates very clearly that you will not be an easy target and will not allow him to continue with his attack without resistance.6) Physical self defense – using the properly applied and appropriate skills to avoid, evade, and counter your assailant’s attacks as outlined with the:a. “5 D’s” of Effective Self Defense Strategy
b. 3 Keys to Effective Self Defense Action
c. 3 Core Strategies for Effective Defensive Action7) Regaining Composure and Control – effectively handling and neutralizing the effects of post-trauma stress so that you can acknowledge that your attacker gave you no choice but to take the actions that you did in Stage 5. Contrary to popular belief, as it is generally applied in the psychiatric and counseling worlds, this stage is actually practiced and prepared for long before self defense action is ever needed.8) Defend Against Any Legal Issues – this is the stage that gives a logical, rational, strategic reason to have stages 2, 3, 4, & 5, and to use them if possible before being forced to resort to physical action at stage 6. While self defense is legal, you will have to show that you did everything in your power to avoid physical aggression if you are to really convince many members of the legal system, or even administrators at your place of work, that you are not a martial artist or student of self-defense because you “like” fighting.I have found over the years that most schools and programs focus primarily on physical techniques. While they are necessary, the true warrior or professional expert understands that strategic thinking and having a goal other than the conventional idea of “winning” as seen in the competitive fighting styles, allows for a sense of control over situations that physical techniques alone cannot provide.That’s why I teach these 8 Phases of self-defense listed here. Each provides different options, but each level also adds techniques, tactics, and “intensity” to the defensive response not present in the previous levels. Having a complete understanding and control of this structured, 8-stage outline gives you a real sense of “mastery” and the ability to control and stop any assailant who would attack you.Do you want to learn more about the way I do it? I have just completed my brand new online ecourse to self-defense success, “Foundations of Self-Defense Mastery”Download it free here: Self Defense Course

How Should Educators Be Trained to Teach Special Needs Children?

Educating special needs students can be a challenging yet rewarding experience. Educators who work with children with learning disabilities need to be specially trained to know how to handle particular situations and personalities. People who work with or are responsible for teaching special needs children need to first understand the different learning disabilities, attention deficits, developmental delays, behavior problems, and other distinctive disorders that each child may suffer from. The degree of disability of each student varies but could include severe difficulties such as dyslexia, autism, and multiple disabilities.It’s helpful for educators to develop a clinical eye towards all students and learn how to apply special teaching techniques to reach each student. Each student has different symptoms and needs and therefore teaching special needs should be customized and developed to meet each student’s needs. The first step to ensuring this approach is to develop an educational plan that is designed and modified to fit the individual based on their weaknesses.Educating special needs students requires patience, an understanding of the medical conditions that have an effect on learning disabled children, as well as an understanding of the federal laws of education. This is all vital to being a positive influence and great help in teaching special needs children. You need a solid foundation of knowledge relating to students with learning disabilities first in order to effectively help teach them. Beyond this, an understanding of the federal laws that apply to education such as IDEA, No Child Left Behind (NCLB), and Section 504 of the Rehabilitations Act of 1973, along with other classroom and curriculum accommodations to manage learning.When working with special needs children, it’s helpful if teachers know how to diagnose different learning disabilities. Teachers should learn about all of the different types of learning disabilities and know how to recognize symptoms. Beyond learning disabilities, behavior problems can be very disruptive in the classroom. Behavior problems need to be approached in the same way as learning disabilities. It’s important for educators to completely understand all of the different types of behavior problems. There are ways to help improve behavior problems once you understand the difference in each type.One of the more serious learning disabilities is autism. This disorder is different from many of the other developmental disorders that some students may have. Once educators understand the disorders it’s necessary to know how the disorders are appropriately medicated. However, medication should not be the only method used to solve any problems with special needs children. In order to properly help and handle special needs students, an educator needs the help of parents, school administrators, special care providers and support staff, other teachers, and aides and paraprofessionals. Partnerships and collaborations are really key to effectively supporting and improving the lives of special needs students. To go beyond just educating special needs children, you need to create an environment where the student will feel comfortable and cared for. A lot of work and care goes into teaching special needs but the results of truly being able to help improve and educate special needs children can be extremely rewarding.