Product Mockup of Carl Aid - Drink It!

Why You Want Product Mock-ups

The phrase ‘Product Placement’ usually refers to movie or TV production companies taking money from sponsors to promote products on screen. A family eating their brand of cereal, or a hero drinking a certain soda for example. That is not what this post is about. This is about Product Mock-ups.

In the design world, product placement has a far more literal and practical meaning.

Either photographically or by graphic magic, adding elements seamlessly into scenes to make the unreal look real (known as compositing) is the beating heart of modern marketing. Placing studio models onto beaches or into cars are two everyday examples. Compositing requires skill, planning, and time. This skill set deserves entire volumes of posts. Fortunately many can be found with a quick Internet search. The art of creating something which doesn’t physically exist… well. That’s next level.

Compositing non-existent products is a whole new ball game.

The product must first be created, usually from scratch while working closely with the client to match their product visualization. This requires design and practical skills beyond putting images together. You create from a blank canvas. The conceptual creation must then be matched with the angle, scale, and colour scheme of the carefully chosen target, and the lighting on the product matched to seem it was actually, physically, present in the scene. If done well, the viewer only knows when they are told that it’s a composite mock-up. That’s the Gold Standard: If you’re not told, you think it’s real.

What Are The Benefits Of Product Mock-ups?

A real and growing need exists for product mock-ups in the global business world.

Companies want to see how physical products will look before committing the resources to make them. Proof of concept mock-ups can be examined from all angles and discussed among stakeholders. Designs and packaging variations can be evaluated quickly, and costed accurately, without need to retool production lines or build multiple time consuming physical prototypes. It’s a much faster, more responsive, and far less expensive workflow for getting a product to market.

Startups seeking financing have more chance of securing funds when they can show potential investors one or more mock-ups as part of their pitch, even if they haven’t yet made a physical product. Focus groups can be given virtual products on which to provide feedback about packaging, shapes, colours, fonts, style.

Without spending a single dollar on production costs, it is possible to raise funds and take advance sales. For real-world examples, look no further than Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, and GoFundMe.

These are just some of the practical benefits that can be leveraged with a mock-up. It’s clear to see that working this kind of composite into marketing and advertising campaigns can reap massive rewards.

Don’t drink the Kool-Aid

Compositing of any kind is a valuable skill, for sure. It’s also a very rewarding practical exercise and something I like to do when I have spare time and the mood takes me.

Tongue firmly in cheek, I created my very own product: Carl Aid. Clearly not a real product (unless someone wants to invest?) this proof of concept and shameless marketing tool is simply eye candy. It shows the power of mock-ups. A different colour? No problem. Move the logo? Done. Change the photo. Sure.

As a baseline target I used an iPhone snapshot of my real camera on a bar in Buffalo where we stopped for lunch. The napkin holder originally said ‘Kahlua’, so that had to go. Which led me to Carl, then to Carl Aid. Then, of course, I made and branded a can of soda, blending it with the low res original iPhoto and adding a little camera blur to match the depth of field. As a proof of concept, it does the job nicely.

As a purely practice piece this went quickly from ‘Don’t drink the Kahlua’ to ‘Drink the Carl Aid’ and… well. Here’s the finished proof of concept. Carl Aid tastes good and is good for you. Any business wanting to leverage this kind of product placement or work out campaign strategies can test that at any time.

Just pick up a phone. Let’s do lunch. Maybe have a soft drink as we work. Maybe try the Carl-Aid.

Drink it…

Product Mockup of Carl Aid - Drink It!
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Concept Art: Don't Pay The Ferryman

Don’t Pay The Ferryman

In the last article I used this image of me laying back taking a break from rowing. It was taken by my wonderful wife with her point and click. I liked it so much I wanted to play with it, and see where the muse took me. After a few enjoyable hours of play, I created this: Don’t Pay The Ferryman.

My apologies to Chris De Burgh for borrowing his title. His excellent song of the same name started running through my head as the work evolved into this final piece. It grew through several different ideas before I locked on this one. I’m going to work on variations, but this one works best for me so far. The image here gives a strong visual impact that tells a powerful story. This story.

The Ferryman

The Styx is the mythical River Of The Dead. To reach the afterlife, it must be crossed.

The Styx can only be crossed by ferry. There are no bridges. The dead carry no possessions. They have no boats. Swimmers attempting to cheat their way into the afterlife become disoriented and lost in the perpetual mists along the river, until exhaustion overtakes them and they sink down into the murky depths of damnation. Fearful souls too afraid to board the ferry spend eternity in the ghostly limbo between life and death. They can be seen along the shore, until they are lost in mist as the ferry pulls away leaving them behind forever.

The ferryman, whose name is Charon, guides the dead to their final home, rowing forever backward and forward between the shores of life and death. His ferry is the only safe path to the afterlife. He has to be paid for his troubles. Once you have paid his fee, you may board. Your fate is sealed. So unless you are weary of this world and ready for that final journey… don’t pay him.

This myth has percolated in many forms and many cultures throughout history. It’s one reason the dead would have pennies placed on their eyes: To ensure they could afford safe passage.

Time and Tide

Two things which wait for no man are time and tide. Two more are death and taxes. The only one we are not sure applies here is taxes. There’s an interesting stream of thought…

I have never been one to give up easily. I will fight to the last, and if there is a way around a problem I will find it. One day, though, and being purely practical, my life will be over and I will reluctantly have to pay Charon. Probably. But not until I’ve explored every option. Which is where we come in.

So here I am, dead. Rowing a boat I somehow managed to contrive or conjure, exhausted from navigating the Styx and its mind-bending mists that ensnare and confuse and push the faint of heart back to the shore where they must pay the ferryman for passage. I’m sleeping the sleep of the terminally tired, not yet aware that my stubborn perseverance actually paid off: My little boat found it’s way to safe harbour.

I drifted into the channel, and am being carried by gentle waves to the futuristic landing stage of my next adventure (this is my afterlife, guys). As one closes, another door opens. Onward. Always onward.

Styx

The band Styx have absolutely no connection to this. They simply share the name of the mythical river. As I worked on this, it morphed many times. At one point I decided it would make a great concept album cover, so I went with it even though it’s not (yet) square. That’s another variant for another day.

The album is ‘Don’t Pay The Ferryman’. And it’s by a band called Styx Not. Not Styx.

Homage to a great band that I discovered through my wonderful wife and have grown to love, the members of which band will hopefully not try to sue me for copyright infringement. But hey, guys, if you want to use this concept as your next album cover, let’s talk. Just throwing it out there. Worth a shot. Hey, gimme a break. I may one day have a ferryman to pay. Or not.

Don't Pay The Ferryman concept art
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Carl resting

Jordan Harbour Gallery

I finally collated the images and uploaded a Jordan Harbour Gallery to my photo site.

It took a couple of trips. I shot some of these from the water, after rowing our 4-person inflatable boat from the launch point at the Jordan Conservation area, under the QEW and around the headland into Lake Ontario for the Grande Hermine shots, before rowing back down to get to the bridge. Quite the day.

On another day, we went back and crossed the bridge on foot, taking aerial images of the lake as we went, then hiked to the bottom of the trail to get shots from the riverbank.

None of these photos were shot on a drone. I didn’t own one at the time, hence the boat. Hey, when I commit, I commit. I will say, though, that my decision to later buy and become licensed to operate a drone may have been heavily influenced by this fun but tiring 7-hour rowing round trip.

I was toast by the end, as the wind picked up and fought us getting back to the dock. We weren’t making much headway so I engaged the help of my wonderful wife and her strong arms for the last half hour to pull an oar alongside me. She is quite the woman. Pretty, and can probably bench press a Buick.

After the day in the hot sun and all that exercise, I can tell you I slept well that night. We both did.

These were a couple of great days out that gave us some very happy memories and some great photos. Totally worth the effort. I was able to get unique perspectives that would not otherwise have been possible, even with a drone. I also have a longer battery life. Anyway, sometimes, it’s about the journey.

Please, enjoy the gallery. Let me know if you like the gallery by leaving a comment below. Purchasing any image in any format will soothe my still-sore muscles and the memory of all that rowing…

Sore but still laughing and loving life
CLICK IMAGE TO GO TO GALLERY
Ojibwe Thunder Birds

Thunderbirds Are Go

Ojibwe legend says that Mount McKay, Fort William, is home of the Thunder Birds, powerful creatures that can control the very rain and wind, whose wings beat thunder & eyes flash lightning. From the mountain top they look out across Lake Superior, keeping protective watch over the land below.

Thunder Bay, Ontario, is said to take it’s name from these mythical birds, and they may also be the source of the 60’s TV show title. They are ingrained in many parts of North American culture.

These statues standing guard over the sacred mountain also serve as memorials to the Ojibwe Elders. The Ojibwe, whose varied spellings throughout continental North America has in some places become anglicized over time as Chippewa, are an incredibly rich & diverse culture. They still have much to teach, to those that have patience to listen. Very well worth some time to research, I humbly suggest.

This image is available framed, or as canvas prints, wraps, and metal as well as other items.
Click the image for a larger view.

Sunrise at Niagara Falls

Sunrise at Niagara Falls

Today started bright and early for me. Well, more accurately, still dark and early. At 5:00 am I got up to enjoy the task I had set for myself today: Get images of the sunrise at Niagara Falls.

I live around 40 minutes away in Port Colborne. At that time of the morning there is little if any traffic, and on a Summer day you can wind down the window and listen to nature waking up around you as you head into the rising sun. I find that few things lighten the spirits more. With a beverage from Tim Hortons to sustain me, I arrived as planned in the perfect spot at the perfect time: Table Rock.

Inches from the falls, Table Rock is a tourist destination with a food court, restaurants, shops. The usual things you would expect in a place like Niagara Falls. This is where 90% of duck-face selfies with the falls in the background are taken. However, this popular tourist and photography spot is almost entirely vacant at this time of day. Photographers love to congregate here at dawn. Time seems to stop as the most breathtaking view of the sun coming up through the mist unfolds. And no tourists to get in the way.

So here I am. On time, on target, and ready to rock and roll. That’s when things started to go wrong.

Last time I came here, Parking lot A, a short walk away, was free until 8:00 am. This not broadly advertised detail was taken advantage of by all locals wanting to shoot sunrise over the falls, as you could be in and out at leisure without cost: The parking lot was rarely empty. Not so today.

On my arrival I was greeted with a sign which said parking is now free only until 6:00 am. And since full sunrise this morning was not until 6:22, I had arranged to arrive just after. Bum, I said to myself.

It will now cost $28 if I want that photo, which gives me parking until noon. I only needed at most a half hour. Sorry, Niagara, I don’t want that photo that much. Not today. I drove on.

After a pleasant ride around town enjoying the sights, sounds, and excitement of a slumbering tourist area waking, I made my way to the top of the escarpment. From here you can look down on the falls from above. Not quite Table Rock, but still a spectacular perspective offering a viewpoint that encompasses the Niagara river stretching right back to the horizon.

Stopping here is not permitted, since the road would be permanently blocked with people enjoying this view. At this time of day the chance of getting a ticket in this tow-zone are minimal, so I took a calculated risk and stepped out of the vehicle long enough to take five steps to the rail. And got this.

Not the shot I planned, but it will do. It’s a memory that I survived to see another wonderful dawn. Enough to ensure the trip was not a bust. Even though I didn’t get the shot I wanted, I was happy.

After this I drove around for a while and spent one very pleasant hour just sitting by a creek I found. Watching fish swim, flies dance, and listening to the crickets and the woodpeckers and the frogs.

Roll with what you have, that’s what I say. Life is good. Onward…

Sunrise at Niagara Falls
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Empire Sandy fires the canon to start Canal Days

Canal Days 2020

This year has seen a huge change in normal life across the globe. Here in sleepy Port Colborne many things are different. Few things bring this home to me more clearly than the absence of the Empire Sandy to kick start Canal Days with a literal bang as they fire the cannon on their arrival the night before.

This cannon signifies to anyone in earshot, which is 90% of the population, that they should batten down the hatches for a long weekend of crowds, noise, traffic congestion, and queues. Everywhere.

Around the downtown core, street performers and musicians entertain patios full of diners with live music and food from around the world. On the water, the Tall Ships are open for tours and trips out into the lake. Along the canal, street vendors and food trucks line West Street from one end to the other. You can enter a wide range of prize draws, drive golf balls across the canal, race plastic ducks, even graffiti a wall.

There is a mini-carnival for the kids with a Ferris wheel and other rides. Birds of Prey and other animal attractions are on display. Craftsmen offer everything from caricatures to chainsaw carving. At the various parks we have car shows, kite competitions, face painting, live music, any number of activities.

The central market square across from City Hall is turned into an outdoor music arena for the duration with bands performing on stage from morning until night, to the enjoyment of the many thousands of tourists that flock here, and the dismay of those in the surrounding city blocks that just want to sleep. Saturday sees the main music event, whoever the headliners happen to be that year.

The whole shebang concludes on Sunday with a boat parade of lights, followed by what is widely acknowledged by almost everyone, locals and tourists alike, to be the best fireworks display in the Niagara region, bar none. The fireworks are also preceded by the firing of the Empire Sandy cannon. It’s a neat start and finish bookend to the weekend: Between two cannons, that’s Canal Days.

After the fireworks, the crowds drift away. Families head home. Locals, those vendors that are staying one more night, and boat crews head somewhere air conditioned to cool down and wind down. The clean up crews start work. Monday sees the remaining vendors leave. The Tall Ships leave. By end of day, the City is almost back to normal.

Another year, another Canal Days. For over forty years. Until 2020.

Many here in Port Colborne hate it. Many love it. The debates at City Hall and online are often heated, repetitive, endless. In other words, normal life in a small community. The tourists that come not only from the surrounding region but across from Buffalo and New York State to see this annual spectacle often come back year after year, so this little corner of Canada must be doing something right.

All I can say this year, is that it’s awfully quiet. I miss that canon.

Empire Sandy fires the canon to start Canal Days

For more Canal Days images from previous years please visit my Photo Site

The Road Less Travelled.

Onward

Life is a river that flows in one direction. Onward. As a youth you enjoy the speed and excitement as the current pushes you from one experience to the next. Learning to read. Write. Speak. It’s exhilarating.

As you get older, the impulse is to try to hold back those river horses. Consolidate what you’ve learned. You’ve spent years learning everything you think you will need to know in this life, then everything changes. And that can really throw you. You have to start again. Again.

But life, the simple definition of which no two sciences or theologies fully agree on, doesn’t care about your last ten years. Or that your career just became surplus to requirements. Or even that you were replaced by a software update. It just flows onward. This thing we call life, simply is.

If you try to hold back the river you are likely to drown. Or at the very least, look quite silly. The better thing to do, therefore, is go with the flow. See where it takes you. Onward.

In life, metaphorically and otherwise, we come up against dead ends. Some, you just cannot overcome. Others, you can. Since I was a child I have not tried to fly by jumping from a roof and waving my arms. I may be wrong but I still believe that would end badly.

I have, however, continued to learn new skills every year, and will for as long as I can. I have changed horses in mid-stream more times than most. Primarily, because I enjoy it. Learning new skills keeps me fresh, and helps me move into the future to face new challenges. Onward.

From grease monkey to sales, purchasing, logistics, customer service, training, photography, and a lot of in-between along the way, I discovered one simple truth many years ago. Learning one way to do things does not mean it will always be the only way; just ask a film photographer. So I’m adaptable. Open to change. To my mind, it’s the only logical move we have.

Case In Point

Case in point: I like to get out and explore. Growing in to a career producing print materials, web, and video designs, I adopted a camera as a tool of the job. Beyond that, I use it for event and landscape photography – some of which you can see at http://photos.gystservices.com.

While doing all this, I fell in love with the camera as a tool for relaxation and fun. I spend much of my down time driving around taking photos. My camera is my constant companion, providing solace and peace while it records my adventures. I drive for hours. Just drive. This is my explanation of how and why I found myself on a No Exit road, face to face with this particular sign.

When I saw it, I smiled. Because the limits had been set. The challenge was before me.
One look into the wilderness and I knew I could go further. So I did.

I took my fate into my own hands and drove on. Taking this cautionary sign at it’s word I proceeded carefully, navigating around deep ruts, potentially deeper standing water, fallen trees and the encroachment of nature on all sides. And, a half mile or so later, came out the other side.

No worries. This was a calculated risk. As a commercial driver for years I know my own limits and those of any vehicle I drive. I felt comfortable knowing I could back out, navigating hazards in reverse. I knew the clearance under my car. I’d checked Google Maps satellite view for obvious dangers, and knew exactly where I would emerge. I had cell signal to call for a truck and knew which way to walk to the nearest road if I had to. Risk management 101: Know your exits. This is perhaps not as romantic as the thought of diving headfirst into the wilderness, but hey. I’m adventurous, not stupid. I took stock of the situation. Then took a leap of faith.

My reward was seeing things not visible from the well-traveled road. Three does, a stag, squirrels and birds and strange buzzing insects beyond number. An abandoned barn. Wild chickens. Wild turkeys. Rabbits.

All because I was a little adventurous, and faced a new minor challenge. Despite what this sign said, the road did not end here. The real road, just like the the river of life, flows onward. And I’m still driving it. Or going with the flow. I have to stop mixing metaphors. Comedic juxtaposition and humorous silliness aside…

I can recommend getting out of your own comfort zone sometimes. When the asphalt ends, or the river of life takes an unexpected turn, try to at least keep your head above water and go with the flow. Do something new, every day. Make your own road. It’s very rewarding. It keeps you young. It’s worth it.

Writing down all these deep thoughts has taken quite a lot out of me. I need some down time now, I think. I think I shall go for a drive.

Onward.

Onward: The Road Less Travelled.

Happiness

Happiness is where you find it. Here, it’s in a quick video snippet of Nikki and I out and about enjoying the Summer. This bit of silliness was recorded during a stop at a local Conservation Area.

Just because the world seems to be coming to an end is no reason to let life get us down.

You take your happiness with you. Wherever you go, there it is. Or isn’t. Happiness can be shy and may not want to come out and play. Happiness is like a child. Petulant. Stubborn. Unreasonable. Beautiful.

Happiness needs nurturing. Take it to the park for a picnic every so often. Buy it an ice cream.

There is joy and happiness aplenty to be found in this silly old world. Sometimes, you just have to coax it out from the rock it’s hiding under and bring it into the daylight kicking and screaming.

Mixed metaphors aside, things can always get worse. Conversely, they can always get better. Remember that. You can’t control what life throws at you, but you can control your response.

Be happy, in spite of all the reasons not to. In some cases, not all, it’s a choice. Not always easy, I know.

Whatever shape your own happiness may take, start a conversation with it. Learn what it likes. Buy it an ice cream. Make the effort. We found ours. Seek. And you, too, shall find. So go. Off with you.

Barn - After editing

Photo Editing: Before and After

Once the working day is over I can turn my focus to one of my passions, photo editing. There is something beautiful about taking a raw image and reshaping it with light and colour into something unique. It relaxes me. Frustrates me. Makes me happy and sad at the same time. Takes my mind from my worries and gives my brain some much needed down time. Photo editing and retouching are good for the soul. Getting paid for it is a bonus. Whether my style appeals to you or not, it does to me. And that’s primarily why I do it.

Case in point, during one of my frequent explorations of the Niagara region I came across this old barn which has seen, let’s be honest, better days. There must be history here. A family farm. Kids playing in the hay loft. Cattle sheltering from a winter storm. If my own youth is any guide there was probably some canoodling at some time, which may explain those kids in the hay loft.

All gone. Time passes. One day time will take it’s final toll and this piece of history will be no more.

However

Photo editing can make this barn live again. Not as it was, for that you need Photoshop, which I use daily and think of as my second home. However, that is not the feel I wanted. I wanted to see this barn in the present day, infirmities and all, with those decades of memories intact. Proud and strong despite everything nature continues to throw. Not going down without a fight. I respect that.

I wanted to give those golden memories one last, glorious summer. So I brought the sun.

For photofiles the original was shot in RAW, with a Tamron 17-55 2.8 at 1/200th sec at ISO100. Edited to personal taste in Adobe Lightroom. After having an hour or more of fun playing and trying variations I came down on the side of this one. I went for the emotion.

A little over the top? Maybe. Call it creative license. Every image is different. For me, for this image, this treatment works. For some, it may not. But that’s the amazing thing about photo editing. I can come back tomorrow and do something completely different. Same image, different feel.

Right now, this pleases me. Hits the notes I aimed for. Says what I want to say. That makes me happy.

Barb - before editingBarn - After editing
9/11 memorial, New Jersey, New York

A Little Perspective

On July 4, this photo of my wife Nikki at the 9/11 memorial in New York is a powerful reminder of how messed up this world can be. War, genocide, human rights abuse, famine… the list is long.

We live in Port Colborne, in the sleepy Niagara region of Ontario, Canada. The biggest scandal in our little corner of the world right now is that due to COVID-19, a by-law exemption allows servers to cross the street carrying cold beers to patrons on temporary outdoor patios. People on both sides of this constitutional crisis are up in arms over this issue. We clearly need more fiber in our diet.

However bad you may think things are right now in your own corner of Canada, remember that you didn’t get planes crashed into you, hit by a hurricane, flooded, killed for being different, or put under curfew. And that’s just in the shining metropolis of New York, New York.

My perspective is this: If the biggest thing on your radar lately is someone crossing the street with a beer for you, you live in a pretty great place. Smile.

We got this. Be thankful. And be happy. Peace.

9/11 memorial, New Jersey, New York