Josh's Photo Blog

February 25, 2010

Thoughts on Social Networking

Filed under: updates — joshuaps @ 4:54 am

I was recently asked to provide my thoughts on social networking and how it might be used as a practical tool on both a personal and an institutional level. I’ve done so below, and welcome any comments or thoughts. For those of you reading on Facebook, please comment on the main blog.

I’ll start out by defining what social media is, as I see the catchphrase thrown around so often that I feel it’s lost much of its meaning. Social media is, on a fundamental level, the ability to quickly, easily and affordably make and share content to a wide range of people. The Internet is the key component in making social media work, of course – it gives anyone with an Internet connection and a webcam an opportunity to become a mass media outlet, something that used to require a huge investment of time and money, and that hence was limited to outlets like newspapers, TV stations and movie studios. This same universal access makes it much more of a 2-way medium than traditional mass media – if everyone has a voice, people are able to react to what they hear, and people do this online in an unprecedented way. Comments, reactions and counter-videos allow social media to take on a meaning and life that goes far beyond the original video, blog post or status update, and it is this kind of interactivity that is crucial to a social media campaign’s success.

Above, David Choi, a Youtube celebrity, self-documents his presence at a live performance. The Internet is giving the average person the potential to reach mass audiences in an unprecedented way

Knowing all this, there are numerous practical applications for social media tools. I have used social media as a tool in the past, and continue to use it, in order to build relationships and trust between parties. At my past internship with Donald Norris Photography, I created a series of viral videos for the studio. We knew from the start that we didn’t want to use the videos to sell directly – nobody goes on Youtube to watch ads, unless they’ve shown on the SuperBowl, and we obviously didn’t have the resources for that. We decided instead to create an instructional series of videos, with the aim of establishing Don’s expertise in photography, being entertaining and, above all, showing that he was a real, human being – someone who’s fun to be around, willing to help out and not too pretentious.

The lessons I learned from working with Don on these videos are also highly applicable to other fields like politics, where trust-building and sensing trends are vital to success. The success of Barack Obama’s social media campaign in getting the youth vote is one well-studied example here, but I will be using a more local example here: the 4th District of Los Angeles, which encompasses a broad range of communities ranging from San Pedro to Palos Verdes to Manhattan Beach and others. The demographics of the region (which skews young – most people are between 20 and 44 years old) suggest that many residents of the 4th District already use social media to make or listen into messages. By taking advantage of this demographic’s adeptness with the medium, it is possible to allow those affected by government’s actions to present their sides themselves. As an example, one could take a recent arts project announced for Manhattan Beach, where the county could give access to inexpensive Flip Mino camcorders to allow the project’s stakeholders (community members, the artists and local residents, among others) to breathe life into the story by documenting the project’s effects on them and show how it is affecting the community. In a time where people are more skeptical of large organizations than ever, initiatives that give a degree of trust and an impression of impartiality can be used to make institutions like government more personal, interesting and transparent.

Photos and video copyright 2010 Joshua Sy


February 24, 2010

Upcoming Travel Photography Workshops

Filed under: news, Uncategorized, updates — Tags: , , , , — joshuaps @ 5:24 am

For those of you who are interested in learning more about photography in general, and the stories and concepts behind some of my photographs, I will be holding two upcoming travel photography workshops in March: a FREE 2-hour workshop in Los Angeles and an extended 6-hour workshop in Manila. Information below:

The Big Trip:

Fundamentals of a Successful Photo Excursion

Los Angeles:

Sunday, March 7, 12:00-2:00 PM

Location: USC Campus, TBA

Free Workshop


Saturday, March 20, 2010 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM

Manila Polo Club Saddle Room

Workshop Fee: PHP 3,000

Join travel photographer Joshua Sy as he shares his insights on travel photography, acquired from 4 years of photography experience across 5 continents. This workshop will teach intermediate-level photographers the key elements to making your next “Big Trip” – the long excursions into distant lands that yield amazing photographic opportunities – a success. We will discuss everything from pre-planning to on-the-ground shooting to post processing.

About the Instructor

Joshua Sy is a Los Angeles-based freelance photographer. Since getting his start in photography at age 18, he has photographed scenes of life in over a dozen countries in Southeast Asia, the United States, Europe and northern Africa. His coverage of natural disasters and rallies in the Philippines placed him in the finals for the SportsShooter Student Photographer of the Year for 2008; his portrait work placed in the Top 20 at the 2008 Hearst Photojournalism Awards.

For more information, contact Joshua at

For reservations (Manila workshop), contact Ms. Jo De Leon at 0917-537-4359

The Manila workshop includes free lunch and “merienda” (snacks)

February 22, 2010

A Week’s Worth

Filed under: updates — Tags: , , , , , , , — joshuaps @ 4:40 am

Above: Favorites from a portable studio at The Bicycle Bread Company giving table

Below: Chinese New Year in Chinatown, Los Angeles

Not pictured: 7 rolls of 120 slide film from this and last week that I still need to get developed

February 15, 2010

Streets of LA: Car Rig Test

Filed under: Shoots — Tags: , , , , , , , , — joshuaps @ 3:10 am

I’ve always wanted to try rigging a camera to a car, so when my cousin (above) said he had a buddy with all the necessary gear, I jumped on the chance.

It helps that his dad (my uncle) has a sweet Honda S2000 in tip-top condition.

The rigged car (above) was quite a sight on the streets of LA yesterday; we got more than a few puzzled stares and “wow!”s as we drove by. The camera itself wasn’t really that hard to mount – just suction-cup it to the hood. The trick was getting good lighting on the driver while keeping all the gear out of frame. As hard as it was to rig an octabank to the door and dodge LA traffic while having it on, it would have been much harder (and less fun) to photoshop the light out of a busy background of skyscrapers and neon lights. Better to get it right in the camera.

We used a Nikon D300 and Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 lens for the shots, mainly because the combo was more expendable than my main D700 and wide-angle. “Expendable” is relative, of course – there’s about $2,000 of gear on the hood in the pic above, and $400 more on the boom sticking out of the car – but I’d rather risk the backup set of equipment than the main kit on the first go. We triggered the camera with my friend Eric’s Pocket Wizards, from a lead car my other cousin was driving.

For lights, there’s a Nikon SB28 running through a Photoflex Octodome (amazing light source) and a SB800 through a mini-softbox hidden in the passenger seat for fill.

Below, some other shots we did on the car rig

I think I’ll be playing around a little more with this in the future. With a stronger concept and more planning I could see some amazing shots coming out of this setup.

Thanks to my cousins Nathan and Nathalie for being gung-ho about all this, Nathan’s friend for the rigging and Eric Wolfe for his pocket wizards!

February 8, 2010

USC Career Fest

Filed under: Jobs, news — Tags: , , — joshuaps @ 2:22 am

I was recently hired by USC’s Career Planning and Placement Center to produce “photojournalistic” coverage of their first-ever Career Fest, a week-long series of events to help people come to terms with the new state of the economy.

Ali Velshi, chief CNN business correspondent, was the keynote speaker for the event.

I hadn’t used my big 70-200 in a while, but I knew I’d need it for the events I covered. The big zoom would have weighed me down in my Europe travels, but was invaluable in getting really tight shots of Mr. Velshi and other key speakers.

Questions were fielded…

…resumes critiqued…

All in all, pretty standard coverage for me. Hopefully these photos (and all the rest I shot for the Career Center) will go towards making next year’s event even more of a success.

February 4, 2010

Back in LA

Filed under: Uncategorized — joshuaps @ 5:28 am

I’m finally getting the hang of being in LA again after 4 months abroad. Way, way behind on posting photos on this blog.

I’ve been spending a couple of weekends getting up to speed with shooting in LA again. It’s quite possible that this city has more interesting people per square mile than any other.

Above, the Sandgelopes beach bike ride, where LA bikers rode from Venice to Santa Monica over sand and through surf

I’m graduating this semester. It’s a world of opportunity out there, I’ve just got to figure out which ones to go for.

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