Matthew Conheady

President and Founder of the NYFalls.com network of sites.

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About me

Background

A self-portrait at Havana Glen - Matt Conheady

I live in Rochester, New York. My background is in stream ecology, ethics, and evolution.

I don’t work on NYFalls.com full-time. I was the Director of Integration Services at Advanced Language Translation Inc., and now I work as Lead Producer at Workinman Interactive, a video game and etoy studio in downtown Rochester, New York.

In my free time, I read textbooks on various subjects, including geology, anthropology, and other branches of science. I also enjoy reading National Geographic (especially vintage issues), kayaking, making international friends, learning about cultural minorities in remote regions of the world, people watching, and dominating my friends in Street Fighter IV.

I enjoy awkward situations and love to create them to see how people react. I also enjoy not sleeping. I hate sleep and usually work on these websites in the middle of the night. As I get older, I am feeling the effects of late nights more and more, but I keep fighting it. Down with sleep!

I am not married and have no kids, but I do enjoy my family, especially my niece and nephew.

My sense of humor

You probably won’t get along with me if you don’t have a receptive sense of humor. And not the corny, hack type of humor you will see on Big Bang Theory. I’m plotting, planning, and waiting for the timing to execute my next punchline. You may see me carry around a little leather-bound notebook. I fill those with jokes, hoping to have all the material I need if I do a set. Old ones are packed away in storage. One day I’m going to take them all out and entertain my grandkids with comments about airline food and fart jokes. I’m going to be the funniest old man. When I die, I want to be buried at sea. Not my ashes. Buried whole–Just toss my corpse off a pier. Even better…chum me up for the sharks and sprinkle my pieces near a popular swimming beach. I want my burial to make the news!

Starting NYFalls.com

I am a self-taught photographer, and I have read over 100 books on photography. I have been using Photoshop since version 3, long before I ever owned a camera. I bought my first camera so I could take photos of my nephew when he was born in 2003. Soon after, I started shooting scenes at Stonybook State Park and then Grimes Glen, places I have always enjoyed, and wanted to post the galleries online. Realizing that most people don’t want to see mediocre photos from some random guy, I decided to improve on my photography. Knowing that even pretty photos were not enough to make a successful website, I planned to include guides to these parks so people could not only enjoy my galleries and information, but also go there and try photographing these scenes themselves. NYFalls.com and its network of websites are meant to inspire people to photograph.

Although it is nice to be complimented on my good work, I realize a lot of my work suffers from poor execution, lack of knowledge, and bad equipment. This site is constantly being improved upon and I am always ready to re-write, re-process, or re-shoot things I look back on. I will probably do this for most of the galleries produced prior to 2008.

My thoughts on photography

On the topic of Black and White…

Proper Black & White technique can contribute to a photograph, rather than just take away.

I prefer color over grayscale nearly 100% of the time and when I see most black and white photography online these days I lose a little faith in that photographer’s abilities. A lot of people nowadays will take a sub par photograph, de-saturate it so it’s grayscale, and call it a work of art. A lot of people see black-and-white imagery and think “art.” Black-and-white tones are now used as a cliché to show that an image is on a higher artistic level than it actually is.

All too often I see people on Flickr take a mediocre color shot, convert it to grayscale and all of a sudden people start gawking over how great and visionary it looks. It’s not like the photographer originally composed for black-and-white. No, they took it with their digital camera, which captured all the color, and most likely they saw the colors were off when they finally checked it on the monitor, so they took all the color out of it. All of a sudden it looks like they’re an art student working these photos out of a lab at the local college. It doesn’t surprise me that most people, when creating black-and-white photography, de-saturate color images. This practice rarely demonstrates the richness of tone that true black-and-white photos can contain. In the digital age, a proper black and white conversion is needed. A proper vision and capture technique is even better!

Don’t get me wrong; black-and-white can be done well, extremely well. Composing for contrast; forgetting color and looking solely at tone; using color-blocking filters and proper channel isolating techniques can all yield excellent monotone results for digital images. I just don’t like the “de-saturate for art” technique that seems to be the consensus out there. It’s just way too easy to remove color and is more challenging to get the color right. People should recognize that and scrutinize grayscale images a little more.

HDR photography…

Proper HDR exampleI use it regularly to overcome the limitations of the technology and usually the weather. As a landscape photographer, I’m often confronted with less than ideal lighting conditions. I can’t really afford the cost and time to make long trips, hike miles, to return to locations just to get the right lighting. So when I can, I bracket my shots to capture the darkest shadows, and sun-drenched highlights, and combine them using a variety of techniques, High Dynamic Range Images being one of them. My recent HDR work has been done very close to the output of a normal range image. This is what I’m striving for.

The overly detailed, super saturated clouds-of-chaos that plague Flickr and other online galleries are something I would like to avoid. They may look interesting and perhaps sharp and detailed as small online thumbnails, but at larger sizes and in print, they are a mess. Barely useful beyond a curiosity. Hopefully as camera technology improves, I can leave my HDR techniques behind.

Self-editing…

Tibet mani pileOne of the greatest skills a photographer can develop, is the ability to self-edit. To know which photos to show, and which ones to discard. Often I see people dump whole memory cards online and let others sort through them. This isn’t going to win many followers. Even posting images online is a form of publishing, and if you want to impress, publish only your best.

One technique I have is to grade my images on a scale of 1 to 10 when I’m building a gallery. I perhaps make adjustments to the top half. Then I make the decision at the end to take only the top 3-4 grades, depending on the quantity I need, and publish them. When all else fails, I look at the photo and ask myself… can just anyone take this photo? If so, I’ll leave it out.

I actually have several sets of photos from waterfalls, parks, and lakes that I have yet to write pages for. Why? I just don’t feel they are good enough. When I get a chance to take photos that will impress, then I’ll work on posting a page. Otherwise, I’m patient; I can wait. Just checking… I have maybe 50,000 photos just waiting.

In more recent years, I have shifted my editing towards my shooting. I simply don’t shoot continuously. I wait… I wait until my settings are right. I wait for the focus, the timing, the moment. Then I shoot. Digital has allowed photographers to spend hundreds of frames to create one shot at little to no cost. And I recommend this technique for beginners. But for someone taking it to another level, practicing discipline is what should be done after mastering the fundamentals. Shooting a surplus does have its costs, and that is discipline.

What a nice camera…

I’m pretty modest about my work. I really don’t think I am the best or near the top, but one thing that gets me every time, is when people take a look at my work, and the first thing they say is “Wow, you must have a nice camera!”

I like to think that I do, but really it’s not a very popular camera among professionals. It doesn’t perform all that great compared to the latest models, and its image quality certainly isn’t the best out there. I’m not doubting that the camera makes a difference, because I certainly want a better one. I shoot with my main camera because it’s weather-sealed and I can get it wet and dirty. It’s made of metal, so I can smash it on rocks when I climb, and it’ll still be ready for shooting when I finally reach that waterfall. With that, I’m happy and my camera has done most of its work already.

The reason why I have great shots is because I bust my ass to learn photography, and get out there when it’s raining, or drive 8 hours to take these shots, work on them in the lab for hours, and make them presentable. I just wish people would recognize that first.

It’s not the camera , it’s the photographer

Wrong. It’s both.
If you don’t agree, hire a really good carpenter to build your house and hand him a toy hammer.

Weddings

I don’t do weddings. I just don’t have the experience. So many times I have seen couples hire amateurs to cover their most important event. I’ve seen people use consumer-level cameras shooting directly into the sun, with dirty lenses, no external lighting, no backup system, and no clue what they are doing. And they are charging a thousand bucks for this?! There are people out there that get a fancy new Canon Rebel or whatever and then all of a sudden they are putting other people’s memories in their hands by hiring out wedding photography services without having an ounce of experience.

I have fixed countless photos for friends and family because the images they got back from their wedding photographers were just junk. And every time it amazes me that people would have the nerve to charge money for their inexperience, just because they can take a few decent photos of their own puppy or little sister. Weddings are very demanding jobs that require a lot of knowledge of tradition, much creativity and the ability to deal with the many things that can go wrong. The end product will come under high scrutiny and will become an heirloom within the family. It has to be perfect. Couples seeking a wedding photographer should get one with wedding experience—plenty of it—and the ability to post-process and publish within a timely manner. There are just too many wedding photographers out there that should be ashamed of themselves for taking such jobs. Identify them and avoid them.

If any friends or family members ask me to shoot their wedding, I refuse, but always offer to help with finding and vetting a qualified photographer instead. But I will be glad to show up with a small camera, shoot the fun as I experience it, and kindly share those photos with the family.

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