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Chasing Van Gogh September 11 2016, 0 Comments

Over the years I have learned that plans seldom play out exactly as I might like them too. Such was the case with a long anticipated work trip this summer. For reasons too involved to mention here, the trip fell apart just weeks before departure and I found myself on a new path that began in New York and ended in Amsterdam, with England and Scotland sandwiched in between.

With all of the enthusiasm of a five year old, I decided to chase Van Gogh. Of all of the artists in the world, he is the one I love the most. There is something completely consuming about Van Gogh in every brush stroke, and vibrant color in his paintings; in his more than 600 letters to his brother Theo and friends; and in his desperation to “…complete one significant work in my life.”

The artist sees what the layman cannot and sometimes sees what other artists miss. This was true of Van Gogh, hence ridiculed by artists and art critics alike. His own mother, a social climber, was deeply embarrassed by Vincent and his inability to hold down a job. Vincent in an effort to gain her approval, would give his mother paintings, which she promptly stored in the attic of the family home. He remained the outcast, the black sheep to all in his family except his younger brother Theo, who not only represented Vincent and his work, but bought paints and canvas’s for him.

I have long admired those who forge a path lined with uncertainty but filled with hope because they were born to “do it”, if for nothing more than food money. And so, the chase was on!

Arriving in New York the day before my flight to London, I decided to walk over to the MET. I hadn’t been there in years. The MET houses fourteen Van Gogh’s in their permanent collection including: Wheat Field with Cypresses 1889, Cypresses 1889, Self-Portrait 1887, Road to Etten 1881, Olive Trees 1889, some of my favorites. Rushing up the stairs, I found my way to the impressionists and within minutes I was standing face to face with some of Vincent’s most significant works. Crowds hovered around his paintings, five and six people deep. From there, after arriving in London, I took the underground to the British Museum. His work was easy to find, not just because Vincent holds a prominent place among their works but because that is where the crowds were. I couldn’t stop grinning as I walked through the streets of London and across the Millennium Bridge.

As luck would have it, I came upon the Tate Gallery and on special exhibit, the largest collection of Georgia O’Keeffe in Europe. Awesome! After several days in London, the train took me through the countryside into Scotland where we pulled into Waverley Station in Edinburgh. The international festival was in full swing, some 3000 performances of music, plays and comedy during the month of August. Walking down Princess Street I encountered the Scottish Museum. A large banner was draped across the front of the building, Impressionists: Daubigny, Monet, Van Gogh. Once again, I stood face to face with Van Gogh’s Wheatfield’s near Auvers, 1890,  Daubigny’s Garden 1890, Landscape at Twilight 1890, White Orchard 1888, Orchard in Blossom 1889, Poppy Field 1890,  Wheatfield Under the Clouds 1890, Wheat Fields After the Rain 1890, Wheat Fields with Reaper, Auvers 1890, Wheat Fields with Cornflowers 1890 and Rain 1890.

In between Lattes, I plotted my visit to the creme de la creme, the crowning jewel of the trip…the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. As I mentioned, this trip was put together rather late so I had no flight or accommodations that reached any further than Edinburgh. This proved to be no problem for Heather Welsh and Holly Gordon at the Hilton Grosvenor. With both on individual computers they helped me plot my course. My flight was booked. A thorough check of the Hotels revealed that the Hotel Fita was but a 100 yards away from Vincent’s masterpieces and I booked the last room available.

I hardly slept. The Olympics were on television so I watched the day’s events through the night. I prepaid at the hotel, so I could just slip out quickly in the morning. By 8:00 am I was off again on the great chase to a place I had dreamed of going for years. When the museum authenticated a Van Gogh nearly three years ago, a piece privately owned, I became quietly obsessed about going to see the great works of a man who simply wanted to “complete one significant work” in his life.

From the airport I grabbed the bus which took me to the hotel. The hotel worker asked me about my plans while in Amsterdam, “Will you need help planning your stay?”

“I have come for a very important date.”

“Really?”

“Oh yes. I have been waiting for many years. I have a date with Mr. Vincent Van Gogh.”

“That is special indeed.” We have tickets here so that you so not have to wait in the que to see him. Be sure you are ready first thing. If you are there when the museum first opens you will have him more to yourself. You see about 7000 people also have dates with Mr. Van Gogh every day. You will also want to get a ticket for the Rijksmuseum. While they are known for their Rembrandts, you will find that Van Gogh has made a permanent appearance there.”

I dropped my bags in the room and walked around the corner of the hotel. The lines into the museum wrapped around and around. I would wait as advised one more afternoon, one more night. I walked through museum square and glancing up, I began to laugh as I read the banner on a small gallery, Warhol.

The next morning, I felt like a child being let into Disney World. Three floors of pure perfection; paintings, letters and facts about my beloved Vincent Van Gogh. Much of Vincent’s work is a documentary of the peasants life, some a recording of the great beauty of our landscapes and some a record of his age. “For things to grow old is proof enough that they are intended to live.” (R.O.H.) His letters all heart-felt and filled with his living in real time. It was difficult to pry myself away after more than half the day. But it was time to go. And after seeing nearly 300 Van Gogh’s along this journey I was ready to come home and get back to chasing some of my own work.

 


Making Time Stand Still April 25 2016, 0 Comments

So much of our lives is spent in motion, too much… absolutely too much. We live in an era where being still, being quiet or contemplative is seen as unproductive, a waste of valuable time. The cell phone, the text messages, iPad, iPod, cable and computer are seen as musts. Many are rarely “in the moment” but preoccupied with these distractions. Time springs by while as a society we are drowning in the misbelief that we must be continually connected. The fact is these things disconnect us and I wonder how we have allowed ourselves to be lead so far off the path of reality. In my work, being still and completely unplugged is essential.

Photography is all about time. Often, I awaken long before dawn and am at a location waiting for the perfect moment in order to capture our amazing landscape. I can wait for hours, sometimes having to return to a place over a period of weeks or months. But when the timing is right I can make time stand still.  When I press the shutter button for 1/60 of a second, 1/100 of a second, 1/125 of a second, time is literally stopped. The image is committed to film or a memory card. The laughter, the landscape, the celebration or rage of a storm is documented. In that minimal portion of a literal second, the truth of reality is revealed in only the way a photograph can display it. It is raw. It is unaltered.

We rely on images. Images share world events, our joy, our pain or just an incredibly beautiful landscape. The photographic journey does not alter images. It shares what the photographer sees and documents, not what it creates in a computer. True photographers take time to learn how to meter light, and understand depth of field. They engage the manual settings of their camera and learn to set the Kelvin Scale.

To quote George Eastman, "Light makes photography. Embrace it. Admire it. Love it. But above all KNOW LIGHT. Know it for all you're worth and you will know the key to photography."

Unplug and learn your art, your craft. Refrain from using someone else's intellectual property (software) to correct what you did not know to do in the field. Yes. It takes time, thought. But I can assure you no-one will ever wonder if your work is "real."


Choosing Social Media June 05 2015, 0 Comments

I once had a marketing firm tell me that in order to be successful I had to be on all social media sites and I needed to be on social media several times a day because it is in real time. Social media was new and I knew little about it. It is impossible to be on several social media sites, maintain an active eCommerce website, produce art and sell it at 30+ shows a year unless you have a large staff. While it would be great if I didn’t need to sleep and could go without food for several days, that is unfortunately not the case no matter how much Dunkin Donut coffee I drink. This is what I’ve learned:

Your website should be your priority. One of the first things customers ask when at an art show is, “Do you have a website?” If you don’t have a website, you can create a free one on WORDPRESS. If you want an eCommerce site and are willing to pay a little each month, SHOPIFY is amazing! I have had mine for years and I wouldn't go anywhere else! They are truly the best. Tips: Keep your website current. Add new work regularly. Delete info that becomes irrelevant. If there is space for a blog, write one once a month. Also, let folks know what art shows you will be participating in, giving dates, location and time. Amazing things will happen…people will find you and follow you. Last spring I had a phone call from what I thought was some sales person trying to sell me marketing…It was Amazon. They found me; God knows how and asked if I would like to be a part of their home collection. (They have just two people assigned to search the web for new folks that they want to add to the home collection.) Yes, there is a small fee but the point is the biggest retailer in the world found me based upon my website…NOT social media. As I continue to work with them, they are very helpful, I am starting to see sales pick up.

I do not Tweet, Instagram, Esty or Pinterest. Don't misunderstand, social media can be a powerful tool. I know a lot of folks who use these sites and make good money. But I have to assess my most valuable resource, my time. And so do you. For what you do, how then do you allocate your 24 hours a day? I do have a blog on WordPress. This is because when I write a blog for my website, I can simply copy and paste it into my WordPress account.  Future plans do include Pinterest. A Facebook page for your business may also be of value. This is a free tool with great reach. 

So, decide what kind of time you can put into online marketing, keeping in mind that you do not need to pay someone to market your work for you…I learned that the hard way…and jump in! There is money to be made with your beautiful work.

 


A Visit To Cuba May 25 2015, 0 Comments

Cuba is both a country of architectural and natural beauty and a country in ruins. It is a country of the weary, and a country of warm engaging people. It is a place where the tastes and music heighten the senses while crumbling buildings and thin faces inspire great sadness.

Entry into Cuba is an event. The airport terminal is a small square building with one great room for departures and one for arrivals. There are no jet ways. One walks off the plane and down steps. The tarmac can accommodate two planes at a time. A third space in the terminal is used for customs agents and a forth serves as the baggage claim area. One would think with such a small terminal, one would move quickly through customs, gather luggage and be underway. But quite the contrary. It is not that they lack workers. It is the amount of goods being brought back from the US by the Cuban people who have been fortunate enough to be granted visas to visit family that cause such delays. Tires, sewing machines, crock pots, light fixtures, and televisions are loaded on to the baggage carousel. Suitcases stuffed to the breaking point are wrapped in heavy blue or white plastic until they look like giant snowballs. Old men and women deplane with shopping bags full of shampoo, soap, toothpaste, antacids and over the counter medications. The unloading from a single plane can take two hours and did on the day of my arrival. As the endless stream of giant boxes and plastic wrapped suitcases went round and round, I imagined my small black suite case lost. But no. It eventually appeared under a rather large box marked “fragile”.

The interpreter met our group of artists at the airport with a small bus. Unlike the old rusty public buses, this small bus is new, subsidized by the government. Traveling into Havana, I see the morning heat steaming from the sidewalks, a deep, humid, southern heat which I love but which suffocates in a city full of debris. People crowd into the streets or sit in every door way for as far as I can see. I learn that air conditioning is almost nonexistent in private homes. Fans are more likely to be found in the homes and buildings in which people reside. Laundry hangs from windows and on balconies.

The hotel looks unremarkable. That is, it looks like most hotels that I have stayed in, with a lovely lobby and decorative decor. I am reminded that the government is certain to subsidize and even run the hotels, restaurants and state buildings so that they attract tourists, vital to the Cuban economy. My room is small but clean. There is some air conditioning here, though the blowing air is not truly cold. The hot water is only luke warm. Wash cloths are not available. I thought to bring my own. The electricity darts on and off occasionally but generally only for a few seconds. The hallways are grand but it is clear that maintenance is minimal. When it rains buckets are placed all about because the roof leaks and not just in one or two places. The buckets keep the guests from slipping on the marble floors. As they fill with rain water, workers empty them and put them back in place.

The proper plazas are also maintained by the government. These are the places where the tourists visit Cathedrals, museums and sit for a coffee. Many of the tourists are from Europe. Cuba has significant trade with Spain so the Spaniards are frequent visitors. Cuban rum flows freely and everyone partakes. Within the plazas and immediate surroundings, Havana is like many other cities, with the exception of the 1950’s Chevrolets now converted into taxi cabs lined up in rows ready to take you anywhere you wish to go. Most tourists see these vehicles as quaint, a preserved memory from the past. The Cuban taxi drivers see these cars as being on life support, with no spare parts and in constant need of repair.

On my first morning I wake early and after my luke warm shower, I head out with our guide into one of the plazas. It is lovely and the sun is beating down on the square. St. Christopher’s Cathedral is open and I go in. The church is dark, lit by candles and the stain glass is illuminated by the streams of light blaring from the morning sun. Fans are running and it seems that no-one except tourists are inside. When I come out, I see members of my group having Mojitos at an outdoor cafe. I join in. By mid-day we have lunch in a restaurant that once hosted Earnest Hemingway. We order more Mojitos. It is a fine day but I am anxious to head out on my own. Tourist sites are interesting but the story of Cuba is not in the plazas or government run hotels and neighboring restaurants. No. The story of Cuba lies deep into the neighborhoods among the crumbling buildings, windowless homes and garbage filled streets.

I watch the others head back toward Park Central where our hotel is located and I walk in the opposite direction into the neighborhoods of Havana. I am surprised by the number of people sitting in doorways and in the streets. No work. This is how so many educated adults spend their days. A small boy about nine or ten walks up to me and pulls on his shirt. He is wearing cut offs and a brown shirt he has clearly out grown. His sneakers appear to fit, although he is not wearing any socks. He is covered with a thin layer of dirt. He asks me if I have some soap so that he can wash himself and his shirt. Knowing that very basic needs of the Cuban people often go unmet, I have bars of soap in my backpack. I take one out and give it to him. He smiles and hurries down the street. I stand there wondering what other nine or ten year old do I know that would be so happy with a bar of soap?

A block over I note how strange it is to peer up and see the stunning remnants of such intricate architecture. Even upon casual glance, what is left of these grand buildings is fragile, structurally unsound. A family is living on the first floor of what was a two story building. The top floor has apparently collapsed. Worry seems a luxury. The family just goes about their business.

Many live behind bars here. Windows and doors are secured by iron. Decorative as the iron may be, it is a metaphor for how they live, unable to leave Cuba. Even the fishermen must be licensed by the government to go out to sea.

I am not concerned about my wanderings although a woman approaches me and cautions me about having my camera out after dark. I wonder why? Cubans have no internet unless they work in tourism, no digital devices, most don’t even have a land line. Instead, public telephones along the streets are all in working order. But I thank her and continue on. An elderly lady, is sitting on her front steps. Even though it is nearly 100 degrees she is wearing a light sweater. She smiles at me when she sees my camera. She doesn’t speak to me but allows me to photograph her. It is almost five o’clock and the school children are all walking home. I continue to photograph the crumbling buildings and desperate poverty until the light begins to fade and I am forced to head back to the hotel through the dimly lit streets. After dinner, I go back to my room which is equipped with a telephone. I was told that all calls made are monitored by the government. This does not register with me. I call back the states to let my family know that all is well. Without thinking I say, “Pop, you can’t imagine what one nut job can do to a country!” Realizing what I have just said, I end the call quickly. I do not make that mistake again. I turn in early so that I can be on the street, camera in hand, at first light. When I do, I head out in the opposite direction from the day before. I am quickly on streets that are completely torn apart. Trenches have been dug and plumbing pipes are completely exposed. Impassable with a car, sheets of ply wood have been laid down so people can exit their homes.

It is barley light out but people have begun to fill the streets, heading for work and picking up their daily quota of fresh bread. Cubans receive a specific amount of Cuban Pesos per month based upon their work. A man I meet on the street says he receives $210 Pesos per month. He explains that he has a family and that it is not enough to buy even the essentials. He asks me to go into the grocery store across the street and buy him milk for his family. I open my backpack and give him toothbrushes and toothpaste. He seems pleased. A school teacher I meet explains that many basic supplies must be purchased with Convertible Pesos, the currency issued to tourists. Convertible Pesos are five times more valuable than Cuban Pesos. Tipping someone in Convertible Pesos is like giving a Christmas present. Faces light up. This two currency system was intentionally designed to keep the Cuban people living in poverty.

Many of the streets are used like a dump. Garbage and waste are piled high. A man dressed in blue jeans and a tee shirt rummages through the smelly garbage looking for food. He picks up scraps of bread and places them in a plastic bag. The locals don’t seem to notice the man. I can barely watch. After a few minutes he leaves. A stray dog, of which there are many, marks his territory on the same spot where the man was rummaging for food.

Some portions of the day are spent with our group of artists and guide visiting such places as the home of Ernest Hemingway. While I enjoy these side trips, I want to get back into the neighborhoods. On Saturday I head into yet another neighborhood with two other artists. One speaks Spanish well. It is a tremendous help. We wander down side streets photographing doors with great textures and colors, old cars and people gathered in conversation. A half dozen boys are playing on a basketball court with what appears to be a half deflated soccer ball. I walk in and toss them a baseball. Knowing how popular baseball is in Cuba, I brought several with me to give to the children. All the boys grab for it. One of the boys, the smallest one, does a back handspring. “You like Miss?” They instantly crowd around me. They want me to give them each a Convertible Peso. They are charming but a bit aggressive. My art friends look concerned. I give each a Convertible Peso coin as quickly as possible. I glance in my friends’ direction as they watch the unfolding scene. When each boy has a Peso, I say, “No more.” I quickly close my bag and we leave. I am amused by their high spiritedness. Even the children understand the value of a Convertible Peso.

We continue on our way and for a moment I think I am in an old Italian neighborhood in the 1950’s, New York’s Little Italy. Four men, perhaps in their 30’s are sitting around a small table playing Dominoes. They are laughing which makes me laugh. I see one of them motion me over to sit on an empty stool. I do sit and watch. We laugh because the same man keeps winning the game. The dark haired man next to me turns and offers me a small glass of liquid. I am somewhat cautious but all four are now looking at me. I sniff what is in the glass and realizing it is rum, shoot the entire shot back. They all applaud! I take a few more photos before I thank them and press on.

It is hot, humid. As we turn the corner there is meat hanging in a glassless window. It no doubt has been hanging there all day. More meat sits in trays, mostly chicken and pork. A young man tells the butcher what he wants. The meat is not wrapped. The butcher just places the meat in plastic grocery bag and hands it to the man. This is unimaginable to me. I, an American who has learned from childhood about keeping meat cold and cooking to proper temperatures. My diet while in Cuba consists of mainly rice, beans and eggs. And of course a desert of Flan! Everywhere, the desert is Flan.

During our stay, we spend two days in the country. Cuba has no money to develop the land. Except for farming and small villages, the land is as beautiful as the day it was made. We go to visit a farm, which consists of two pigs and some chickens. The farmer is in the fields. Sugar cane, one of Cuba’s major crops, is being cut. I can see corn. Banana trees are in abundance. Next door is what appears to be an abandoned house. It is brick and stucco with large archways. The stucco is chipping off and faded blue, gold and orange painted walls are gleaming in the sun. We get closer to take photos and after a few minutes, an older man comes out and opens the gate. He takes us inside where his 90 year old mother is sitting. He explains that the house was a plantation house but damaged during the revolution. He shows us bullet holes in the walls. The running water is outside the house. He shows us with pride an old motorcycle and side car, clearly an antique. He allows us to roam freely throughout his house. I greet his mother. She takes me into the kitchen. The kitchen has no stove, only a few pots, pans and a mop.

There are small outside markets in the countryside towns. Meat, fruit, beans, jeans and shoes can be purchased. A man selling small pillows explains that he does not have a license to sell them. He will be fined if caught but he wants to eat today so he is willing to take the risk. He says he has a daughter in America. He saw her when she was three. She is now twenty three with a daughter of her own that he has only seen through pictures. He is hopeful that she may be able to visit Cuba since he has been unable to get a visa to visit her.

Our guide thinks it is important to visit one of three cemeteries in Havana. It rivals any of the largest cemeteries I have ever seen in the states. The stones, the statues are ornate and elaborate. Clearly Cuba at one time had a great deal of wealth. I prefer not to look among the dead so I duck into the Cathedral that is being renovated, another government project. To the right of the alter, a door is open to a small room. I peek in. A woman greets me and I ask her how old the church is. “1875.” She asks me where I am from and tells me her sister and niece are in Miami and her aunt and three cousins are in Chicago. Tears well up in her eyes as she explains that she has recently been denied a visa by the Cuban government to visit them for the third time. “We wait” she says. “We pray. We wait.”  A man, who approached me in the middle of the street one afternoon before trying to get me to buy him a drink, put it much more bluntly, “Raul stupid. Fidel, loco!”

It is apparent everywhere that Cuba is a country in waiting. Waiting for basic needs to be met. Waiting to see loved ones not seen in years or even decades. Waiting for any sign that they will be free to make choices for themselves, waiting to dream. I marvel at the hope, the smiles, and the warmth of the people.

While one end of the airport is filled with anticipation as family members return or arrive for a visit bringing with them much needed supplies, the other end of the airport is a combination of woeful sadness and uncertainty. I watch a boy of about twelve sobbing as his grandmother kisses him goodbye. She looks to be about eighty. She wipes his tears but he is inconsolable. Others are crying as well, even the men. Only passengers are allowed into the airport. So, as visas expire and visits come to an end, families are torn apart as those departing walk into the airport through frosted glass doors that close behind them. Those outside are left to wonder if they will ever see their loved ones again and if so, when? They walk away in silence wiping away tears. As I watch, I think of my own family.

Two generations are now paying the price for the “Sins of the Father,” so many who were not even born during the Cuban missile crisis. Some believe that normalizing relations with Cuba helps Castro. They are mistaken. Castro has destroyed so much of his own country. He has what he needs and takes what he wants. That’s the thing about evil and it is not going to change no matter what we do or don’t do. Normalizing relations is about extending a hand to the Cuban people. No-one should be punished for events that happened before they were born. And no-one should be kept from their family.

 

 

 


Your Work Should Evolve February 03 2015, 0 Comments

Back in 1989 when I was given my first camera, a Minolta 370 all manual film camera, I had no idea how to use it let alone could I envision a lifetime of work in the photographic industry. But I loved the magic that happened in the darkroom, when a blank sheet of printing paper came alive with what I saw through my view finder. I had no formal education and I often found myself asking others in the field how I could replicate what I had done when a particular image suited my fancy. I remember one time in particular. I had photographed a friend's child. The light bouncing off the sand at the beach was so blinding that all but the child's sweet face and head were blown out of the photo. The result was a beautiful black and white photo that looked like a line drawing. When I asked a friend about it, he laughed at me and said, "You create really cool art because you don't know any better. No-one has educated the creativity out of you." Then he went on to explain "High Key" photography to me. I worked for a long time in portrait photography. I loved my work of Stella, one of the original tap dancing grannies from Esther's Follies in Austin, Texas. I also loved photographing Santa Claus and the self-appointed "Father" John. 

For a while, I loved photographing pets. I loved photographing a wedding ONCE. But when the digital age came to fruition, I detested people wanting to change their looks. I had long been taught that photography was about documenting what is. So, I decided to turn to the world's landscape. I indeed love this type of photography. When folks ask me what I do, I tell them, "I listen to the landscape, collect the silence and document what is." I don't mind getting up at 3:30 or 4:00 in the morning so that I can be on location when the light comes. I always say that it is the time before the world invades our lives. And after more than twenty-five years, I love my work as much as I did when I started out, maybe even more. I still use all manual settings on my camera and I still sometimes use a hand held light meter just because. My friend Frank Lavelle, says we are dinosaurs and I laugh because I can set an f-stop and a shutter speed with dead on precision, no meter needed.

But as I enter this next phase of my life, I have once again added to my resume another area of work, photo-documentaries. It is a natural off shoot of my travel, now adding the written word to accompany the photographic stories I have been seeking out over the past few years while on travel shoots. My work is once again evolving, something I take both pleasure and pride in. 

I hope to publish some of these photo-documentaries in the next year or so. I have gone after some difficult topics. Some are topics that many people would like to shield their eyes from. But we live in a time where cannot afford the luxury of ignoring outdated policies, human suffering, or the simple fact that we often do not treat one another very well.

I have come to believe that I am in this industry to share not just the beauty, but the truth, which is the next chapter in my photography.


When The Work Doesn"t Come August 16 2014, 0 Comments

There are times when the work flows freely. The ideas overflow from within and there are hardly enough hours in the day to capture the images in a particular body of work. There are also the long term projects created over a period of months or even years. These projects can be inspiring and motivating as the visual progress comes to light and the tangible, physical photographs can be organized and shared as en exhibit or book.

But what about when the work doesn’t come? Occasionally, happily it has not been too often in my career, there are times when I am suspended in my work. Perhaps a photo shoot did not work out well, too many sand storms in the desert! Or perhaps a photo shoot was cancelled due to war breaking out in a country where I had planned a photo documentary shoot. Time passes and a sense of urgency rolls over me as I become concerned about not keeping my skills sharp. I realize it is somewhat ridiculous given my years of experience and knowledge of light. But never the less, the concern exists.

Although the art shows have been plentiful this year, the new work has been hampered indeed by sand storms, and trip cancellations due to war. Long term projects fill in a great deal of time but I have thrived on the creativity that comes with capturing new bodies of work.

So I offer to you a few substitutions that help fill in the gaps while I rework schedules, funding and ideas for some of the work that I have had to postpone. First, I tend to review all of my collections on hard drives. I often find “new” images that I have never printed. In the process of trying to limit a collection to 12-24 pieces, I sometimes chose one over another for the sake of not making a collection too large. Adding these “new” images or swapping one or two out can keep a collection fresh. After twenty some years I have thousands of pieces of work just waiting to see the light of day.

Secondly, I find substitute photo shoots. These are usually shorter trips but are on my list of eventual shoots. Substitute shoots often turn into beautiful collections of work. The unintended often does.

Finally, I try to visit art museums or if that is not possible, the art section in a book store. Studying someone else’s artwork helps give perspective even if it is a different art form from your own. Take it in and find the inspiration.

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Upcoming Art Shows April 15 2014, 0 Comments

We will be at the following spring art shows:

April 25, 26, 27: Fiesta Art Show, San Antonio, Texas

May 3 &4: Becker Vineyards Lavender Festival, Fredericksburg, Texas

May 24 &25: Festival of The Arts, Kerrville, Texas

June 13, 14, 15: Blanco Lavender Festival, Blanco Texas

July 3, 4, 5, 6 Holiday Art Festival, San Antonio, Texas


Cataloging Your Work February 19 2014, 0 Comments

Having spent more than twenty years in film and digital photography, I have work in every corner of my home, and studio. Portfolios are piled high and new work is still locked inside the catacombs of more than a dozen hard drives waiting to be cataloged and printed. Cataloging your work should be a priority, just as backing up your work should be. Cataloging your work is akin to a finger print of your life’s work. These easy steps will help you to catalog your work.

Using your computer programs such as Photo Shop or Light Room, you can create your files online. (Make a print out so you have a backup copy.) Most photo software will allow you to catalog images as you process them. You will begin by creating a file name for groups of images but also, be certain when using this component of your software that you name your photographs individually as you process them. Your software will automatically number your photographs but numbers do not jog the memory when you have thousands of images. Your camera type, f-stop, shutter speed and color temperature will automatically be given. If there is a space to add the date the images were taken, the time of day the images were taken and the lens used, log that information in as well. If not, you will want to manually add this information on the print out. For images on film negatives, similar steps should be taken by recording the name of the image, the f-stop and shutter speed, film type and speed, and the camera and lens used. This can be done in a paper notebook or in Microsoft word.

Why catalog your work?

  1. Easy access to specific images. It eliminates searching when you want to present work to a client.
  2. Identification. As you build your body of work, your style will emerge. One of your goals as a photographer should be to make your work identifiable with your style. No-one mistakes a Van Gogh with a Monet. You can more easily nurture the development of your style if you are able to look at your work as a whole. Creating portfolios is the easiest way to do this and it catalogs your work at the same time.

Portfolios are bodies of work that display your skill as a photographer. I have twenty to thirty portfolios ready at any given time. Subject matter is grouped together. Product photography, such as images of food are one portfolio, for example, while images of still life are another portfolio. Do not make the mistake of mixing work in the same portfolio. You want your portfolio to be diverse but subject matter should be grouped together. A potential client who is interested in food images for their restaurant is probably not going to care if you can photograph real estate. When I meet with a potential client I always take with me what they have asked for but also take with me a few portfolios that they might want to see but didn’t know to ask for. However, I never mix the work into the same portfolio.

  1. Copyright. Work should be cataloged for the purpose of maintaining copyright. You don’t want to lose track of what work you have filed with the federal copyright office as you build your body of work. Making a catalog documents when and where photographs were taken but also the type of equipment used, the f-stop, shutter speed and color temperature.
  2. Insurance. If valuable work is stolen or lost in a hurricane or other disaster, details about the individual pieces make identification easier and may make filing an insurance claim easier.
  3. Finally, in the event that someone uses your work without permission, you have a log of all information regarding how, when, and where the image was taken. This is a great way to provide documentation that no-one else will have, hence “proving” the original work is your own. (Also see blog on Copyright)

The Next Photo Shoot January 14 2014, 0 Comments

January. I sit with my calendar in front of me and an endless list of places to photograph. I look at the pile. The pile is a group of projects that I have been working on, some projects requiring time and attention for years. I try to calculate how much time I need this month to get my taxes to the accountant, how much printing time I need for an upcoming competition and art show on the east coast. As I do these things, I think on a comment I have heard from my art friends for years, “This stuff kills my creativity.” I want to groan.

Even eight weeks after my return from Cuba, I mentally walk the streets of Havana in the quiet early hours when one has time to be still, the time before the sun peaks over the horizon and the world once again invades our lives. I think about my return there. I wonder when that will be. I wonder how such a place could grab hold of me so completely.

I relish the time in which I wait, sometimes for hours, for the light to reveal the lines I now seek to photograph. I live to do this work surrendering myself to know no time or day, just the images slowly showing themselves to me as if to share a secret. The light changing form from moment to moment enticing me to chase it, capture it. Slowly a timeline emerges… Show on the east coast, early spring. Late spring, Valley of Fire and Death Valley. By late summer, long term project #1…finish first draft. Dropping into an entirely different culture and losing myself completely in my work, early fall.


Try On a New Medium October 04 2013, 0 Comments

 

Working in photography for the past two decades has taught me the physics of light and the human visual spectrum of color. No matter how advanced the technology becomes, if you can’t measure light and have no understanding of how color and human vision record what we see, you will never be a master of photography. Technical aspects do change and take years to learn. But photography has taught me something else necessary to capture the landscape, patience. Over the years I have gotten quite fluid with respect to capturing light. I can estimate light and camera settings quickly and as a consequence, work quickly when necessary.

But I found a renewed appreciation for some of my artist friends when I tried on a new medium. My friend Kris is an amazing potter. He throws pottery the way I take images. As I watched him work I thought, cool. I can do that! So I signed up for some individual lessons. I spent nearly a year just working on the basic fundamentals of throwing. While Kris could throw a pot in ten minutes, I struggled to throw one worthy of saving in a couple of hours. I struggled with hand placement, and how much pressure to apply on the clay. I struggled with when to lift a piece from the wheel.  I often added too much water when the wheel was in motion or just the opposite, not enough.

This is way good art costs. We are not paying for the ten minutes it took someone like Kris to make the pottery, we are paying him for the years he spent learning how to craft his pottery in ten minutes.

While I have always maintained this mind set with regard to my own work, it had been some time since I was reminded of the years my fellow artists’ have spent developing their own art. And their skill being no less than mine warrants the same appreciation.

I thought it wonderfully interesting to try on another artists medium for a while. Look out…next, I am going to paint!


What is Copyright? September 13 2013, 0 Comments

According to the dictionary, COPYRIGHT is: “The exclusive right to make copies, license, and otherwise exploit a literary, musical or artistic work, whether printed, audio, video, etc. works granted by law on or after January 1, 1978, are protected for the lifetime of the author or creator and for a period of fifty years after his or her death.”

It is true that as soon as you write a story, paint a painting, compose a song, or press the stutter button on your camera, that work of art belongs to you and only you. It applies to software someone has created, or blueprints, etc…

More than a decade ago when people started to download music without paying for it, several major music companies began suing individuals and rightly so. Copying, reproducing, scanning or in any other way using another person's work without permission is stealing. Plan and simple. The comment I have heard through the years is “Oh what does it hurt?” Let me explain…

First, what you are taking isn’t yours. Secondly, you keep the artist from making a living. Truly. I have had to retire images because I could no longer keep up with the ways in which some of the images were being stolen. It has cost me thousands in income. And no I can’t afford to lose income. People who steal other peoples work degrade the work itself. It’s like saying, “Yes, I want your art but I shouldn’t have to pay for it.” Really? When you go to work does your boss want you to be productive but then say that he /she shouldn’t have to pay you?? Try eating that for dinner!

I always hope that artists take the time to register their work, whatever art form it is, with the Federal Copyright Office. This ensures a couple of things. First, your work is on file as YOUR work. Secondly, it allows you to sue for damages. If someone uses your work without permission, even on a Facebook page, you can sue them and will probably get a judgment by the court. However, work that has been filed with the Federal Copyright Office allows you to sue for damages.

For example, if a person uses your work on their own website without permission, and makes $500,000 as a result, you can sue them based on what they earned as a result of using your work without permission. This holds true for someone who uses your image without permission for the simplest of things such as an invitation. If it is copied and distributed say, 100 times, you can receive damages for each time it was distributed. In short, 100 times.

Violating copyright is serious. Many believe that they cannot be sued if they use something they don’t make money off of. WRONG! Just ask the folks that were fined $10,000 per download when they stole music in those early days of illegal downloading!

For more information on Federal Copyright procedures, go to: www.copyright.gov


Practical Photography Can Protect Your Home And Possessions May 20 2013, 0 Comments

 

Protecting Your Home and Possessions

Natural disasters can strike at anytime. Many come without warning. And since most of us do not have a photographic memory, a weekend with your camera can be a real asset if you ever have to make an insurance claim.

No matter where you live, you should have photographs of your home, household contents and any possessions that you have stored away from your primary residence. These simple steps can insure that you have proof of what you own. You can get the photos you need just by using a small Canon Power Shot camera. You do not need a professional photographer to do this for you. It is however, going to take a good bit of time, so plan to take an entire weekend. If you ever need this documentation you will be glad to that you took the time to do it.

First, take some general photos of the outside of your house. Take photos of each side of your house. Take photos of any out buildings such as barns and sheds, even the dog house. Take photos of wooden fences as well as fences made from other materials such as metal. Then, get up close and open the doors to the out buildings and sheds. Take inventory of what you have. Make a list and then photograph all items. For things like lawn mowers and other equipment, take more than one photo. Take several views. This proves the condition of the items and shows clearly what the items are. Write down serial numbers for mowers, power tools, bicycles and other equipment. Add to the list when items were purchased and if you can remember, write down where the items were purchased. (For example, John Deer mower, Lowes, 2008, $1675) The more specific you can be, the easier time you will have, hopefully, if you ever have to make a claim. Once this is complete, you are ready for step two.

Take overview photographs of every room in your house. Show the whole room from several angles. This will provide an excellent record of how the rooms are set up. Then, and this is going to take some time, open every draw, cupboard, and closet. Photograph up close, every book, CD, photo, appliance, and computer. Photograph every sofa, chair and lamp. Photograph all clothes, shoes, toys, silverware, pots and pans, dishes, antiques, and family heirlooms. Be sure that all art, sculpture, jewelry and more expensive items are photographed individually. Make lists as you do this. Document serial numbers, cost at the time of purchase and locate any receipts that you may have. The process as I said will take time. For those who are pack rats, this may be particularly time consuming. It is not enough to take pictures of boxes. You have to be able to prove what is in the boxes. Very expensive items should be listed individually on your insurance policies.  

Next, gather important documents such as passports, birth certificates, medical records, photo ID’s and your insurance policies. They should be kept together in one place so that if you have to leave in a hurry you can “grab and go.” Do the same with family photos that can’t be replaced. Always keep computer files backed up on an external hard drive so that instead of trying to grab a computer, you can grab a small hard drive the size of a thick novel!

After you have captured your images, you should do the following…

Make a set of prints and keep them with your other important papers. Make three copies of your photos on CD/DVD. One copy should be placed in a fire box; one copy should absolutely be located somewhere other than your home, perhaps a safe deposit box. The third copy should be kept with your “grab and go” documents in case you have to evacuate your home in a hurry.

Your photos should be updated as the contents of your house change. We clean out our closets, we outgrow clothes, and we make donations of items we are not using anymore. We acquire additional items. While I often put this in the dreaded category of washing windows, it is smart, and it is necessary to do.  Once a year, take the time to protect what you have worked so hard for…get the photos taken. (Written by: imagemerchants.com)

 

 

 


Texas, Mexico and The Bridge Btw Them July 31 2012, 0 Comments

 

I have wanted to photograph both the San Antonio Missions and the El Paso Missions for a long time. So, I decided to head out a few days ago. The brochures of El Paso show it off as a quaint western city just a short drive, about an hour or so, from New Mexico. I love New Mexico. So my plan was to photograph the El Paso Missions, a bit of west Texas and then head into Southern New Mexico…One should always have a backup plan!
I arrive in El Paso mid-afternoon because of the time change. El Paso is on Mountain Time. I see a sign for the “Historic Mission Trail” so I turn off onto a side road and head about 15 miles into an area that may as well be Mexico. All of the shop and restaurant signs are written in Spanish. Bars are across the store doors and windows. Not a very welcoming sight. I trudge on because it is a beautiful day and my gas tank is full. I don’t speak Spanish, something I truly regret actually, but it doesn’t look like I am going to have to speak with anyone as long as I follow the signs.
I arrive at the first of the three missions. A light bulb goes on. I have often wondered why this mission is always pictured at an angle. The photos are awkward and cramped. Now I know why. There is a solid wall about ten feet from the front of this mission. There is no way to back up and get a complete photo of the front of the building. There is something like yellow crime tape hanging out the front door and the door is locked. This is not a good sign! I don’t have a pair of scissors to cut the tape so I get back into my car and head to the next mission. This mission is also closed but wow! What a fabulous view of this perfectly kept building. The sky is blue, the clouds are puffy and white and when the sun ducks behind them, I get a photograph with perfectly even light! On I go. The third and final mission is open but I take photos in between folks coming out and going inside.
I hadn’t expected to gather those photos that quickly but given that I did, I head further into El Paso to find a place to stay for the night, grab dinner and make a quick stop at the shopping mall! I hop onto the interstate where I am cruising along listening to a fabulous rock station, when, I am all of a sudden no longer near any shopping, hotels or restaurants. But I think I am still on the interstate. I glance over to my left and there is a VERY tall wire wall. If I didn’t known any better, I would think that I was driving next to a federal prison. Then it dawns on me that that is the border wall between the US and Mexico. Border patrol cars are everywhere. I slow because I have somehow gotten onto the bridge that goes into Mexico and the concrete barriers prevent me from turning around. I have either a sheer look of panic on my face knowing that I have no passport with me or a deer in the head light look because a border patrol car pulls up behind me. Out of the car comes an officer who looks like he could bench press 250lbs without any effort whatsoever. He asks me where I am trying to go. Completely embarrassed, I tell him that I was trying to go to the shopping mall. “Oh.” Then nothing. He busts out laughing. “The mall is about fifteen miles back. You didn’t look like you wanted to go to Mexico. Just go up about a quarter of a mile and you will see a sign that says, ‘open exit’. Turn there and it will take you right back into town. You want exit twenty-five.” Dying of embarrassment, I thank him and press on. After a short trip to Dillards where I did not find what I was looking for, I check in at a Hampton Hotel, order in and spend the night watching the Olympics.
The following morning I have my sights set on the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. I head out this time in the right direction. The sky is beautiful, mountains rising in front of me, the same great rock station blaring and coffee in my cup holder. I am about seventy miles down the road when I see flashing lights and a sign that reads, “Border Patrol Check Point”. Now I KNOW I am on the right road but every car and truck is required to stop and show that they are legally in the country. I am no-where near the border so I am a bit irritated. A U2 song has started playing on the radio and I am probably going to have to lower the volume. I approach the border agent and we chat. Turns out we were both born in New York so we get to talking for a minute and out of the corner of my eye, I am watching four other agents hand cuff a woman about 40 years old while drug dogs are in her SUV going crazy over something!! She doesn’t look particularly upset about being in hand cuffs, although the guy she is with standing ten or so yards from her does. I look at the border agent and say, “This isn’t the America we grew up in is it?” He assures me that it isn’t and waves me on. I begin to rethink this little trip. At first opportunity, I make a U-turn and even though I am hundreds of miles away, I head home where no address is required…and no proof of citizenship is needed!


Technology Trauma July 10 2012, 0 Comments

 

Moving professional photographic equipment across the country, essentially my entire studio, was enough to make me want to drive at 20 miles an hour and keep a bottle of Valium close by. Packing printers that are as long as I am tall and loading up computers, hardware, cords, etc…was probably the only portion of moving that made me want to seek therapy before, during and after I did it! But once I pulled into my new studio with all intact, I breathed a huge sigh of relief…I breathed too soon!!

Shortly after setting up my equipment which included a new Epson printer and another computer, I thought I was home free. Then the B&H catalog arrived and the following fiasco ensued. I knew Canon was coming out with an upgrade to the 1DS camera series and several other cameras in the 35mm division. What I did not know, at least until I opened the summer catalog, was that the new 5D Mark III was coming out. Instantly, I was on the phone with B&H trading up my Mark II so I could order the Mark III. I have learned that if you do not trade within a year of an upgrade, you camera value often drops significantly. When the camera arrived, of course it did not work with Photoshop CS5 so I got online paid and downloaded CS6 which of course didn’t work…so then I spent two hours a with a lovely person from Adobe in the Philippines downloading the next upgrade which will now allows my new camera to be recognized. (Actually, she was very patient and spoke English well. A God send!)

I then tried several test prints with my new printer. But wait! It isn’t printing correctly. I check and recheck my settings for my printing profiles. All set correctly but now five, yes, five nozzles aren’t printing. I of course call Epson. Thank God they are in America! I get some really fine gentlemen on the phone who works hard to help me but after a while suggests that we swap the printer out. I of course want a brand new one. Even though I bought this printer several months ago, I have never taken it out of the box in anticipation of the move. They want to send me a refurbished one…..I talk with someone else who has no business being in “CUSTOMER SERVICE “and I finally said, "You are failing miserably to represent Epson well in any way, shape or form." She put me on hold. Believe me it was for the best!

Then, an angel of mercy is put on the phone and after two hours, a new, yes new printer will be sent overnight in exchange for the printer I have. That is the Epson customer service I am use too after nearly 20 years and the woman on the phone was so wonderful, I wanted to cry. So, I have the printer delivered to a friend’s because there is no way a delivery truck will ever find me let alone be able to take an 18 wheeler down the single lane dirt road where my studio is located. He arrives a day late and we load the printer into my vehicle where yet another friend helps me unload it back at my studio at “No Address Required.”

Are you still with me??? I get the printer hooked up and now I think I am ready to go…not quite. My monitor calibration is really off. So I boot up my Eye One but alas, the new operating system on the computer does not recognize this software! My version has been discontinued. Did I mention that in the midst of all this my niece is flying in from NY to have her senior portraits done and my business partner is in ICU???

With my niece arriving in another day, I make sure that my back up systems are in perfect working order along with my two other Epson’s… (I really do love Epson printers with a passion!) and I spend the next week with my beautiful niece and sister. With them on their way back to NY, I order the new version of Eye One and it arrives the afternoon before I take off to see how my business partner, now out of the hospital, is doing.

I will be home in a couple of days and hopefully, with any measure of luck download the new software, calibrate my monitor and getting back to what I do best…”capture the light, listen to the landscape, collect the silence and document what is.”

 


Traveling On February 27 2012, 0 Comments

 

The wide, vast lands of the west have been pulling me toward them for years. The images of the desert running for miles in front of me as I drive the western highways with the mountains rising behind, are too numerous to capture even with the frequent trips I take to New Mexico, Texas and Arizona. It is the quiet, the solitude, the simplicity of a not at all simple landscape that will not relent in its desire to pull me close and keep me there, if only for a time.

I have been living and working in the Low Country for the past seven years. Actually, this is my second rendezvous with the beautiful South Carolina coast. In the spring, there is no other place in the country that allows Mother Nature to show off all her fine glory, as the red, pink, lavender and white azaleas bloom. The jasmine scents the early morning air with its light, sweet aroma. It is truly an extraordinary event for the senses.

Yet, there comes a time, and it always comes, when a yearning to move on sweeps over me and a call to see what I have not and to photograph an unaltered landscape replaces the certainty of the home, and the life I have built in the customary tradition of “normal.” Such a time is again upon me and I grapple with the uncertainty of yet another move but am unable to dismiss the realization that I have seen so very little. For the thousands upon thousands of photographs I have taken, there are thousands more I have not. For the many ways I have learned to live, there are many more I have yet to understand.  And for the cultures of people I have been blessed to know, the solitude of a speaking landscape summons me so that I may know it. For some, roads lead them home. My roads lead me forward.

Farewell, sweet Charleston. You are steeped in an era gone by. But life must be more than about the past. Oh great west, I am in route. Your land open to me like loving outstretched arms which now hold my future.


Thank You Folly Beach Art Guild February 14 2012, 0 Comments

 

Once in a while if we are fortunate, we will encounter a group of people, who are accepting, fun, charitable and just plain fine to be around. The Folly Beach Art and Crafts Guild is just such a group. They are an amazing group of artists who create glass blown beads, exquisite pottery, wonderful oil paintings, water colors, photography and a host of crafts too many to mention. But what makes the Folly Guild, a guild like no other is their generous spirit. They don’t look at other members as potential “competition” but lovers of art and “Wow, did you make that? It is wonderful!” And, “You won that competition, good for you!” They are about the business of sharing their talents and enjoying the success of their guild members. (Yes, they do want to make money!)

Our art shows are a kick! I remember when I first joined, I was concerned that being alone would be a problem because sometimes getting a tent set up by yourself can be a bit trying, not to mention getting all of your work set up. But at the Folly Guild, no-one goes without help. Others always makes themselves available if you need them too. Often someone has baked or brought goodies. We watch out for each other when we need to grab food at the local Subway. And at the end of the day, no-one is left behind.

Folly has always had a reputation for being sort of a come as you are party, a laid back relaxed place. Perhaps it is something in the sea air. Perhaps these folks have figured out that kindness and calm go a long way.Whatever it is, the Folly Guild has been a point of inspiration and just a fun, inviting group of people to work with and be a part of.

As our new season takes off with Folly Gras this Saturday, February 18, 2012, I would like to thank the guild for being such a memorable group. I wish you all a fabulous art season!

 


The House That George Built Now Bankrupt January 20 2012, 0 Comments

Those of us who began our careers as photographers’ decades ago were raised on Kodak film. Kodak was the company the world overwhelmingly entrusted with their memories. Their film held close to 90 percent of the world market. Kodak employed some 180,000 people worldwide. Yesterday, the once giant fortune 500 company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The less than 16,000 company employees are left to wonder if there is any future with the company and those with pensions are wondering if they will be honored.  Although the company held the very first digital camera patents, they failed to develop any viable digital cameras believing that digital development would cut into their film sales. Beyond their obvious failings to embrace the digital technology they developed back in 1978, yes, 1978, they made fatal mistakes which have now cost them George Eastman’s entire legacy. A while back I commented on the state of Eastman Kodak. Anyone in the photographic industry could have seen this coming as I did more than two decades ago. Here is some of that previous blog:

A high school drop out at the age of 14, George Eastman built an empire. What he took a lifetime to build; others have taken a much shorter time to destroy.

Forced to find a way to support his family after the death of his father, George Eastman began his career as a messenger boy, an office boy and later a junior clerk at the Rochester Savings Bank. He studied accounting. But it was photography that captured Eastman’s interest and he began experimenting with emulsions and formulas for making dry plates. He also sought a way to make many plates in a short amount of time. Eastman wanted to come up with a simpler process for photographic documentation. These experiments were the beginning of the creation of what was once the great Eastman Kodak Company.

A small company which made and sold photographic plates grew to be the most recognizable icon in photography and film in the world. Kodak is a perfect example of how to brand a company. Kodak’s long time slogan, “You press the button. We do the rest.” became synonymous with the Kodak camera, that yellow box of film recognizable at a glance. Eastman is responsible for creating the Eastman School of Music. He developed and implemented a plan to create dental programs and a medical school at the University of Rochester. Strong Memorial Hospital was also a project of Mr. Eastman. He gave millions to MIT and The Rochester Institute of Technology. Eastman gave his employees one third of his personal stock. At one point, Kodak employed conservatively 60,000 in the city of Rochester with another 120,000 worldwide.

So what happened?? In addition to the usual mismanagement of corporate CEO’s and upper management, the idea of what Eastman Kodak was and what it should become was replaced by egocentric notions of what the CEO’s wanted to create. My answer to that has always been, “Then build your own company. Don’t take over someone else's'!” I watched this viable company deteriorate over many CEO’s until piece by piece buildings and manufacturing plants were sold off. Other buildings have simply been demolished.

For some companies, diversification is deadly, not wise. Case in point; Kodak was about film, paper, chemicals, medical film and government satellite observation. Kodak had no place buying a pharmaceutical company and even though advised by their own research teams not to make the purchase, the CEO at the time was bent on “diversifying” and the purchase and subsequent sale of Sterling Pharmaceutical cost Eastman Kodak nearly a billion dollars. This type of irresponsible and foolish decision making has eaten away at the company for decades. Kodak made major errors in marketing which confused consumers and led to the discontinuation of some of the best film and paper ever made. Does anyone out there remember Ectar?? Could anyone tell the difference between the packaging on Tri-X and Tmax??

Waste, personal agenda, lack of innovation, and fools at the helm destroyed the vision, creativity and massive fortune that were George Eastman’s legacy. I am indebted to George Eastman, a man I never met. But a man who gave me an understanding of the principles of light and the best films in the world to capture that light and document the moments of our lives.

 


The Edge of America January 08 2012, 0 Comments

I have been walking along the “Edge of America” for the better part of a decade to the end of Folly Beach where the land drops off into the ocean, disappearing as the waves wash it out to sea. A few years back, I walked along the Edge of America everyday for two months after the tourists had gone, capturing, in my images,  the splendor of the peace filled early morning hours. I go back now out of the fondness of those memories. I am convinced that when we say that a place is our “favorite” spot to visit, what we are really saying is that we carry fine memories of a place we once encountered and we hope that it will treat us well again. Many times when we return, our experience is manipulated by past memories as we seek to recreate them rather than getting a clear picture of what something has become. But today, I sought out and documented what the Edge of America has become.

I walked along the beach in what John Steinbeck calls, “The Grey Time…” the time when the day has come but the sun has yet to show itself. The time when most haven’t yet realized that the new day has arrived. There is no other hour that offers more than this. There are no demands. The world does not invade. So, quietly I watched and waited for the light to recapture the “Dancing Trees”.

I first photographed the Dancing Trees in an image I call, “Folly Trio.” These lifeless trees with roots deep into the sand were once surrounded by tall dunes, with thick gold and yellow grasses. A protective fencing in and about the dunes decorated the tress with shrimp boats visible not far off shore. But that is the old Folly. Today, palm trees are strewn about like twigs, the fencing, the dunes, and the grasses have all been ripped away by the anger of hurricane Irene leaving only the Dancing Trees. But in the still hour of the grey time, I have found new images to capture of the beautiful Dancing Trees, alone, serene, just the trees and the gentle gliding tide.


Not All "Photographers" Are Photographers December 26 2011, 0 Comments

There comes a time when one must stand up and be counted. For to fail to do so, to stay silent, gives consent. This blog is not politically correct or even polite. I love the saying that reads, “If the truth hurts, maybe it should”.

This blog is for all those out there who call themselves “photographers” but couldn’t set an F-Stop and a Shutter Speed to save their souls. I believe that if you are going to call yourself a “photographer” and take money from people to create photographs for them or to sell them an image, you should have a working knowledge of photography, understand principals of light and NOT use other peoples intellectual property, namely software, to fix your bad images because you didn’t know how to take a photo in the first place. Spending hours after the fact working on a computer “fixing” your photos and presenting them as your work, not only is a misrepresentation of yourself, it is a lie to those who might hand over their hard earned dollars.

Over the past year and a half, I have met several of these “photographers”. One was a repair man who simply tried to copy other peoples work. One was a retired person who couldn’t hold the camera steady, let alone make a print.  Buyers beware. If you need to hire a photographer, hire someone who actually makes a living in the art of photography. In my experience over the past twenty years, most others will be suspect. Those who have studied photography do not need to alter their images on a computer nor do they generally believe that altering an image brings integrity to their work. The art of their images is in knowing how to capture the light at that perfect moment. It is in capturing that special look, laughter, or event. As with any art form, years of study, experience and talent make their images stand out. They are technically accurate. These folks could use a wooden box with a hole in it to capture light because they know how to set an F-Stop and a Shutter Speed.

For those of you out there who are taking money from honest folks, STOP. Study. Educate yourself or fess up to unsuspecting customers and clients. Let them know that you can work a computer but not a camera. They are entitled. You are risking their events and their once in a lifetime moments. Misrepresenting yourself is bad enough but you damage the true integrity of photographic industry. If you could make a living as an artist you would be. All the software in the world isn’t going to make you a photographer or an artist of any kind. But let’s face it, not everyone is. We all have dreams. I mean, I would like to be 5’10 and blonde, but in this life I’m 5’3 and a brunette.


New Camera For Christmas?? December 26 2011, 0 Comments

Now that you have gotten that "to die for" camera for Christmas, learn how to use it!! Read the manual. It will be your new best friend. And then learn about exposure. Photography is all about light. And light is EXPOSURE!

Exposure is the amount of light that is allowed to hit the sensor of your camera over a given period of time. Time in this case is a fraction of a second to a couple of seconds depending on your situation. To expose a photograph properly, you need to ask yourself a couple of things...How much existing or ambient light do I have? Does the image involve motion? Do I have a tripod? Once you have the answers to these questions you can set, the F-STOP, Shutter Speed and ISO.

The F-Stop is again the amount of light you allow through your lens which hits your camera sensor. The smaller the number, the more light you are allowing in. So, if you are in a setting that is fairly dark, you will want to set your F-Stop at F3.5, 3.2 or 2.8.  

Pair your F-Stop with a shutter speed, that is how long you will allow the light to hit your camera sensor. In low light, you will want to set this at 100 or 80 to start with. If you have a tripod, you can set your shutter speed at 60 or below. 

Thirdly, you will need to assign an ISO. That is the same as film speed. In low light start at an ISO of 400. Digital cameras have come a long way in choosing ISO speeds. And if you still need more light  you can kick it up to ISO of 640 or 800.

In bright light conditions, you will want to allow less light to hit your senor for a shorter period of time. Start by setting your F-Stop to F8, 11, 14. Digital cameras will also allow you to set your camera at 1/2 stops or 1/3 stops. So perhaps you have your camera set at F8 but you only need to let a bit more light in, so, change your F-Stop to F9 or F10. 

Your shutter speed in bright light is also going to be faster than in low light. Start by setting your shutter speed at 125. Set your ISO at 100. 

Finally, you will need to assign a color temperature. Most digital cameras have icons on a dial so that if you are out in the sun, you choose the "sun" icon. On a cloudy day, choose the "cloud" icon. These a great places to start. You can learn how to interchange the icons after you feel comfortable setting your exposure.

All of these points are merely places to start when learning about exposure. Your goal is to capture the light in the most natural setting possible.  I still use a hand held light meter to measure the light I am in before I set my F-Stop, Shutter Speed, and ISO. Although at this point, I can usually tell just by looking at the light I am in, how to set my camera up.

In the beginning you will want to practice setting exposures by changing your F-Stop and Shutter Speed, and ISO so that you can see the difference in how light or how dark the image is once you have taken it. Experiment. Practice, Practice, Practice.



Angel Oak Image to Be Retired July 12 2011, 0 Comments

 After many years of selling my Angel Oak image, I have decided to retire the image on February 28, 2012. It is both with relief and sadness that I do so. This image has proven to be one of the most popular images I have sold not only in Charleston but around the country. However, the many attempts to steal this image have made it necessary for me to make this decision. I have received phone calls from Wal-Mart as folks have tried to make copies of the image, found the image on other websites (which were promptly removed), have had folks try to take a photo my photo, and even had someone try to trace my photograph in an effort  to pass it off as their "drawing". 

All of my images are copyrighted. Any effort to copy, reproduce  or use one of my images in any way is illegal and we do pursue legal action vigorously. Obviously, efforts to stop all theft is difficult. That being the case, this wonderful image will be among my archives in just months. I will maintain beginning March 1, 2012 the last 500 numbered and signed 12x18 prints in color and black and white on this website only.


I often wonder what folks are thinking when they take something that is not theirs. I have spent the last 21 years developing my skill and waiting for the light to capture the perfect image. I still do not alter my work with any software. I still use a hand held light meter. I still spend hours waiting for the light. Attempts to steal anyone's image,  even making a home copy on a computer diminishes an artists work and limits his or her ability to make a living. Beyond that, it is just plain illegal. It is stealing. Think it doesn't matter? It does. Get caught and find out just how much it matters!


Revisiting A Few Days of Glory March 24 2011, 0 Comments

 

It is mid-March and buds are beginning to form. I see them in white, pink, purple and rose red. Yellow pollen covers our piazzas and porches as though someone had taken a container of baby powder and let it explode. It covers everything. The days are warm and nights are still crisp. Heavy dew sits on the ground and on the flower beds in the early morning hours. Still, the blooms pop out one by one.

And then, all at once, we awaken to a symphony of color. In unison, the blooms overflow onto wooden fences. They line streets, alley ways and gardens. They tease the sun as they reach 7 and 8 feet tall. I capture as many images as I can as quickly as I can. Work is constant and fast this time of year. "Capture these beautiful blooms before a hard rain destroys them. Capture them before time takes them." Then the wait begins again for those few days of glory when the azaleas bloom.


New Flowers To Brighten Your Home February 21 2011, 0 Comments

Take a look at our new flower collection with unique square shape. Just perfect for small and hard to decorate spaces!


Drawing Enhances Photo Composition August 31 2010, 0 Comments

JoAnne Streb was a painter. Her art she said was, “a gift to be shared.” She gave art classes in the basement of her house in the summers when I was a child. I took my first art class from her when I was ten. I took my last art class from her, private drawing lessons, when I was twenty-seven.

JoAnne use to tell me that a fine photograph would always make a fine painting. What she meant was that proper composition and light captured in a photograph could be used as a model when drawing or painting.

Those last art lessons were to help me to, “see the lines.” After all, drawings and paintings are about composing lines on paper.  The composition of the lines create light, texture and form. The same is true of the photograph. The capturing of light, form and texture makes up the composition of the image. "Seeing the lines" allows you to document the image in front of you whether on paper,  canvas, film or a memory card.

Drawing and photography have many things in common. First, you must decide what the focus of your subject is. What is your image about and what emotion do you want your image to convey?

How will you draw your image or document it with photography? Do you move in on your subject, showing a partial scene, or do you back up and show the whole? When you look through your view finder, imagine that as your canvas. What have you included? What have you left out.

Will your drawing or photograph be vertical or horizontal? These must be deliberate choices. Each choice you make will convey a certain look and express a specific view point.

What is in your background? Often the forefront of your image is interesting to capture but the background is full of "noise." Here, limiting your depth of field can be very helpful. Use your background only when it contributes to your intended purpose. Drawings often have muted backgrounds. This gives more importance to the main subject.

Look for the lines, shadows and highlights. These basic elements of  will help define your image and your purpose for capturing the image. 

Finally, how does your drawing or photograph relate to others? Does it document a social issue or condition? Or are you documenting a treasured landscape? 

 JoAnne was a master at teaching me how to " see the lines". In doing so, many of the above questions were answered before they were  asked. Find a good drawing class. You'll be surprised how much it helps you improve your photography.

 

Research Your Photo Location BEFORE You Get There July 31 2010, 0 Comments

Running for my life was not what I expected to be doing on my latest photo seeking adventure, but that is exactly what I found myself doing today as I was photographing Antelope Canyon in the Navajo Nation of Arizona.

Antelope Canyon is what is known as a slot canyon, a canyon that has very narrow passage ways that reach up to the heavens. They are stunningly beautiful, particularly around mid-day when streams of light beam down into the canyon exposing the most dramatic reds, tangerines and pinks. Millions of years of erosion have carved out swaying curves, hence the narrow passage ways. Antelope Canyon has been featured in many magazines, including National Geographic. I had been wanting to go there for years.

Because the light can be dark in some places and quite bright in others, it is necessary to shoot with a tripod. You must also meter the light and use your self-timer. Auto bracketing is a must. (There are so many people visiting the canyon that there is really no time to bracket manually.) Just getting the hang of working quickly under these conditions can be a challenge. One must be mindful of time. You are only allowed two hours on the photo tours. (Regular tours run about an hour.)

Antelope was indeed impressive and I was thrilled with the art I was capturing. All I could think about was how fabulous these images were going to look when I printed them on my Epson 9880. I was just taking my last photo, when I heard a voice shouting, “Run! Run! Water! Run!” I knew immediately that raging water had entered the canyon. Like a damn that had burst, water was gushing in, filling up the canyon in a matter of seconds.

I had read that slot canyons could fill almost instantly with flooding waters and that if I was told to run, not to wait a second or attempt to look back. So, I ran! Others were pulled under and swept along with the rushing water.  When it was over, we had accounted for all but one person.

(These flood waters can come from a couple of miles away so you don’t see it coming until it hits. Outside the canyon, the sky was perfectly sunny and blue.)

I spend a great deal of time researching my photo adventures. I want to understand the environments as well as the technical aspects of a photo shoot before I arrive on location. Oddly, I arrived ahead of schedule for the photo tour and one of the guides offered me a slot on an earlier tour. But, I read that the best light was between 11:00 am and 1:00 pm when the sun was directly overhead, so I waited. After all, I had done my research!

 

Note: The last time flash flooding occurred in Upper Antelope Canyon was two years ago. It does not happen every day. But beware of where you are going and the risks you are taking on when you are traveling.

 

The Value Of Keeping A Photo Log July 31 2010, 0 Comments

 When I was starting out in photography, I was told to keep a log of how I photographed each image. I was to keep a record of each f-stop, shutter speed, film speed, the type of lens used, and so on. I found this to be a cumbersome task which interrupted my thought process when shooting and disrupted the flow of my work. It was like driving a standard car for the first time, jerking the car forward as I tried to shift gears and then stalling out.  There was no smooth motion.

What I did not understand at the time was that I would never have “smooth motion” until I could rapidly, without thought, adjust my camera settings in nearly any given circumstance.

Keeping a log is just note taking. It gives you, the opportunity to review the settings that you have used, and the ability to refer back to them when you need to understand the technical side of a particular image.

Your log has a simple set up. List the following:

Place or Location of the photo shoot:

Subject:

Time of Day/Hour:

Camera Model:

Lens:

Shutter Speed:

F-Stop:

Color Temperature:

Bracket Settings:

If your camera has the ability to shoot in RAW, that will serve you best when you print your images. Bracket your exposure. Most SLR’s will have auto bracketing. But you should know how to bracket manually.

Example: If you set your shutter speed for 125 and your f-stop for f8, take the photo and then change your f-stop to f5.6. Take the photo and then set your f-stop to f11. What you end up with is three exposures changing only the amount of light that is allowed to hit the camera sensor. The smaller the number f5.6, the more light hits the sensor. The larger the number, the less light hits the sensor.

Bracketing is an excellent way to understand exposure. Keeping a log will help you understand your work in detail.



The Color of Your Photographs June 30 2010, 0 Comments

Color Temperature is used to describe the color of visible light. This scale which describes visible light, known as the Kelvin Scale, was named after William Kelvin, a British physicist. Every photograph that we take has a specific color temperature assigned to it by the way we set up our digital cameras. Back in the days of color film, we chose a film for day light or night time (100 ISO, 400 ISO). As we progressed in film technology, we had more choices, (25 ISO, 50 ISO, 800 ISO), which allowed us to shoot in various lighting situations. Again, each of these films had a color temperature assigned to it. But with digital photography, we now need to choose our own color temperature, whether we choose by an icon located on our camera or by actually choosing a number on the Kelvin Scale.

Canon digital cameras are equipped with several icons that allow you to choose a color temperature based on the environment you are in when you want to take a photograph. For example, if you are in the day light, you can choose the “sun” icon. This will set your camera to a color temperature of about 5200K. Know that this temperature setting is for about 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM during the summer when day time is the longest.

If you are indoors, and have a lamp turned on, you can choose the “light bulb” icon and your color temperature will be about 3200K. Choosing the “cloud” icon on a cloudy day will set the color temperature at about 6000K. Choosing a color temperature gives your photograph an overall color tone. Lower numbers on the scale tend to be cooler or bluish in tone while higher numbers tend to be warmer and show more yellow light.

Keep in mind that our ability to see light is limited. Therefore, a certain color tone may be present in your photograph, even though you don’t remember “seeing” the image with that particular tone. That is when color correction becomes necessary. A good example of this is when photographing a person outdoors. It is often the case, unless the light is perfectly even, that the skin tone needs adjusting before printing. Skin tone varies widely and no color temperature is going to match every person’s skin perfectly.

Finally, most 35mm cameras will have the icon, “K”. This icon will allow you to choose your own color temperature. Depending on the time of day, I like to work in color range of 4900-5300K. It is a good idea to set your camera on various icons or numbered settings so that you can see the difference in the tones of your photographs. If you have ever gotten photos back from the lab, digital or film, and wondered why they looked so blue or green or yellow, now you know: your photograph was taken at a particular color temperature.

Don’t be afraid to experiment. Choose a landscape for example, and shoot it several times, using each icon on your camera. This will help you to see the color temperatures as your camera sees them. Then you can decide what color temperature(s) you prefer for your photographs.

 

How To Print Great Photos! June 30 2010, 0 Comments

With all of the choices that have come as a result of digital photography, selecting the right paper to print your photographs on can be confusing. I’d like to help you sort through the printing process so that you can create the best prints possible.

Printing is a process. It is created using a printing system. By that I mean printers. Inks and papers are created to use as a system. Years ago, in the age of film, best results where achieved by using film, chemicals and papers that were made by the same manufacturer. The same goes for digital printing.

While there are many printers and lots of paper choices, I use all Epson products. Most are not going to be using professional printers, but Epson’s consumer line of printers are among the best available. HP has come up with some fine printers. For photography, I have found Epson to suit my purposes the best. Epson inks and papers complete the system. Everything is made to work together. (If you are using an HP printer, be sure you are using HP inks and HP papers.)

Choosing an Epson paper depends on what type of look you want your photo to have. The Premium Luster Photo Paper looks the most like traditional darkroom prints. This paper costs a bit more than regular glossy paper but the luster look and the grain of the paper has a more vibrant and saturated look. If you want to get a bit creative, Epson Ultra Smooth Fine Art paper can make your images look a bit like a watercolor. This paper would be fun to try out on your travel photos. Finally, if you are looking for a fine paper on a budget, the Epson Semi-Gloss paper will fit the bill! If you are able, choose two or three papers to experiment with. You can usually find them in small quantities, 50 sheets or less.

Whatever you choose, remember it should be a system, Espon printers, Epson inks, Epson papers. This will ensure that you are creating the best prints possible!

 

What's In YOUR View Finder? June 30 2010, 0 Comments

In 1989, I was given my first film camera, a Minolta 370. I didn’t use it much that first year. Partly because I was still in graduate school and it took a great deal of my time, but also because the friend who had given me the camera kept saying something to me that I did not understand, “FILL THE FRAME.” No matter what photos I took, really snap shots back then, he would always say, “You didn’t fill the frame.” I would think to myself, “Well, no-one’s head is cut off…I can see the whole scene…” Finally, I was photographing a young woman just for the practice. I was using slide film because it is unforgiving. (If you make a mistake on your exposure it shows! It also helps you develop a keen sense of light and an understanding for the principles of light.) Anyway, we were talking and laughing while shooting and she turned her head to compose herself and I took the photograph. It was in that moment that “FILL THE FRAME” became real for me. I realized that for the first time the image I had taken was a photograph that filled the frame entirely: I was on my way! Those early images lacked focus. They made the eyes wander because there was no clear subject matter. I wasn’t paying attention to what was in my view finder.

What is in your view finder???

First, you need to decide why you are taking the photograph. Set the photograph up…remember your perspective.

Next, look through the view finder to see what is going to end up in your photograph! So many times I hear people say. “I didn’t see that car” or “I didn’t see that person walk into the picture.” You can really learn to set your photos apart by focusing on what your intention for the photograph is and by making sure that your view finder is clear of anything that will be distracting.

Finally, get right in on your subject…FILL THE FRAME! Your subject should take up the whole of your photographic space. Unless you are trying to intentionally make your subject look small, your image should fill the view finder. Don’t count on cropping after the fact. The best images are those that need the smallest amount of editing. It means that you are photographing with intent!

 

Unplug. Multi-Tasking Doesn't Work May 31 2010, 0 Comments

The summer heat has arrived in the south and as I drive with my windows up and the air conditioning running full blast, I see the car next to me has the windows rolled down. Stopped at a traffic light, I can hear the radio blaring.  I watch people in a nearby park. Some are plugged into their iPods as they walk their dogs. Others are talking on their cell phones or sending texts.  I have come to believe that I am among the few who still enjoy the silence found in the early morning hours or the opportunity to hear my own thoughts as I drive in a quiet car.

As my days are filled with art shows this time of year, they are anything but quiet. I sell my work sharing the art of photography with those passing through in the hope that they will be better able to take their own photographs. While at a festival recently, someone asked me how I take such fine photographs. He said his photos never turn out the way he hopes. So I asked him, “What exactly are you doing when you’re taking photographs? “Well”, he explained, “I put on my iPod and listen to tunes. Sometimes, I have my little girl with me and I shoot while I watch her play at the beach.”

What this pleasant person has done is common. We use the term multi-task. But in this case splitting ones focus doesn’t work. Some skills demand complete attention.  I often tell people that what I capture with my camera is the voice of the landscape, something I can only hear if I am submerged in the moment.

Good photography requires that I measure light, compose, set f-stops and shutter speeds. I can’t possibly be plugged in to anything else. I think we have forgotten to teach an entire generation how valuable the quiet is. I have heard the same comment from so many young people, “I can’t stand the quiet. Have to have my music on.” And then I wondered, what are they afraid they are going to hear?

 

 

Bluebonnet Heaven May 31 2010, 0 Comments

Living in the south means that spring comes early. It is one of the many things I have always enjoyed. While the snow is blowing and the winter winds continue to howl in the north, the spring flowers begin to bloom and the grass takes on a bright spring green.

Normally, I am all but glued to the southeast during late March and early April as I a wait a few days of glory when the azaleas bloom. But this year, I headed to the Hill Country of Texas to see another display Mother Nature hasn’t shown there in nearly a generation.

Lining the roads and highways of Texas with wildflowers instead of bill boards was the mission of Lady Bird Johnson. She had thousands of acres of wildflower seeds scattered along the highways. Blankets of Bluebonnets, Indian Paint Brush and Mexican Hats covered rolling hills and meadows along a stretch of road that has come to be called the Bluebonnet Trail. Recent years of severe drought have left the trail barren of these lovely lilies, at least until the rains came this past January and February soaking the lands that would bring those rolling hills of wildflowers back in full force this spring.

For several days, I attempted to photograph the flowers with a macro lens. It was frustrating because Bluebonnets are tall and thin. They really don’t photograph well as individual flowers. That did not dawn on me until the fourth day. Just before dawn headed out onto Texas RT 1620 and a large meadow covered in a variety of wildflowers was calling me. I realized that with a Nikon soft lens filter attached to my camera lens, I would be able to take Monet like photographs of these exquisite scenes. The next several days were magical as I let go of trying to get the perfect image. And then I remembered a rule I had forgotten:Never go out to work with set expectations. It will mess up your work. Let the magic happen.

 

Popular Photography Joins Ranks to Damage Photo Industry March 31 2010, 0 Comments

This past month Popular Photography magazine joined the ranks of those determined to destroy the true art of photography by holding a “photography” contest and then declaring those who created computer generated images as the winners.

Let’s clarify. In order to have a legitimate photography contest, entries must be photographs. A photograph is a picture of a subject, captured when using a camera. A camera is a device used to commit some subject matter to negative film, reversal film, a scan film, or digital memory card. The captured image is then processed onto paper through use of the traditional darkroom or the digital darkroom. The understanding and use of f-stops, shutter speeds, color temperature, basic principles of light, and composition are all required in order to capture a successful photograph. I have checked for grins and giggles and found not one text that defines a photograph as an image summoned in the mind and then created through the use of a piece of software.

The New York Times made a naive attempt to compare what one does in a digital darkroom to that of a traditional darkroom. While well intended, a trained photographer understands that it takes years to develop the skills needed in a traditional darkroom. The art of the chemical darkroom is what Ansel Adams is so famous for. While I do understand how digital technology has made processing in many cases an easier task, it is not at all the same process as chemical processing. Think about it. With digital processing one doesn’t have to control chemical mixes, temperatures, baths, timing. Further, the list of technical skills under an enlarger goes on and on…

I indeed appreciate the many values of the digital darkroom. Don’t misunderstand. But there is a clear difference between understanding photography, what photography is, its true purpose and the now ramped misrepresentation in imaging. I guarantee you the intended purpose of photography is not misleading people with a made up image. Photography is meant to document what is. When I am running an image through processing, if I can’t process a test print in ten minutes, then I look to see what I might have done wrong. Was my exposure off by more than half a stop? Was the color temperature set incorrectly? Photoshop was not made to fix bad photography or to mislead people with false images, it was created, from my perspective, to be the next technological step in making processing faster, more accessible and less expensive.

Photography has been been damaged beyond repair by those who accept the falsehoods created by the media, by those who couldn’t set an f-stop and shutter speed combination to save their lives, yet they call themselves “photographers,” and by the marketing community who just wants to sell a product or an image no matter the cost, even if they are selling lies.


Kodak Stupidity Is Never Ending March 31 2010, 0 Comments

It is no secret that I am a long time admirer of George Eastman. His meager beginnings in Western New York were no indication of the vast empire he would build. Eastman Kodak once led the world in bringing photography to the masses. Eastman was an inventor, philanthropist, a visionary. But his company has been destroyed by a history of sustained arrogance by senior management including, but not limited to, its CEO’s, a complete lack of regard for Eastman and the company’s intended purpose.

Some many years ago, I hired a pilot to fly me over the University of Rochester, one of George Eastman’s philanthropic endeavors, for an ariel shoot. I asked the pilot if flying had always been his line of work. He said that it had since he was let go from Kodak. The rest of the story goes like this…As a part of a special project team at Kodak, he and others were asked by senior management to investigate the future of digital imaging. The project team was to make recommendations to the company as to whether or not Kodak should take digital imaging seriously.

After months of research, the project team made a strong case for pursuing digital technology vigorously. (Little did they know that the ground work had been done some twenty years ago!) The team believed that Kodak could once again be the world leader in professional and consumer photography. However, in usual Kodak style, the recommendations were scoffed at, the project team dismantled. Layoffs followed.

This month in PDN magazine on page 92, a small but poignant article reveals that Kodak created the first digital camera in 1975 and had secured the patent in 1978. Stuffed away somewhere and disregarded, Kodak did not launch a digital camera to the masses until 1995. Digital? Just a passing trend Eastman Kodak? Your stupidity is only superseded by your arrogance. Who is the leader in digital photography? Oh, that would be Canon. And just so you know, Canon really is the best.

George, your were a brilliant business man but a dreamer just the same. You would have seen digital coming a mile away. Perhaps your work was not done. Perhaps you should have waited.


Art Shows Aren't Garage Sales March 31 2010, 0 Comments

Springtime brings not only a renewed beauty to our surroundings, but the opportunity to enjoy and perhaps buy some wonderful art found in outdoor art exhibits and shows. It is an excellent venue for meeting your local artists and for expanding your understanding of how different art forms are crafted.

I enjoy talking with those who want to learn about the true art of photography and not what camera I used. Some are truly interested in learning about principles of light and not how to use Photoshop to fix their bad snapshots.

But a new breed of art show walker is emerging, one that I dismiss quickly without giving it a second thought. They are what I call, the Wal-Mart walkers. Art shows are not for getting deals. They are not garage sales. This new breed argues about price, berates the work as though at any minute, they are going to set up an exhibit, and frequently asks the artists to disregard such things as paying sales tax.

While some artists come to these as shows on a part time basis, many of us don’t. It is how we make a living. We have business licenses. Our costs frequently do not include our time because some work takes hours, days or even weeks to complete. We charge based on materials, overhead and try to build in a far profit margin.

A bit of art show etiquette would be appreciated by most of the artists who make a living in the arts and participate in these shows. First, know that NOT everyone can do what we do or they would be. Asking an artist to cut the price is rude. How would you like it if you went into work and your boss asked you to work for $10.00 less per hour or perhaps for free a couple of days a week? Secondly, don’t handle a person’s work without permission. Dirty hands from handling food and beverages can be just enough to soil a piece so that it cannot be sold. Glass and pottery can be easily broken. Artists will appreciate your caring enough to ask them for assistance. Finally, don’t ask an artist to break the law and yes, asking to skip the sales takes falls into that category.

The next time you are at an art show, remember your art show etiquette. We need the arts. We need the value and beauty the arts bring to our lives. We need who artists who create it.


Choosing Your Next Photo Location January 31 2010, 0 Comments

Choosing a photo location demands research. The last thing you want to happen is to arrive at a location ready to shoot only to find that your destination has limited access or is not how your friend described it. Even though much work can be done on the internet, the best place to begin is in the travel section of a book store.

If you want to find a great location in the United States, there are several series of books that you can use to begin your research. A four volume series called “Photographing the South West” by Laurent Martres is among the best series I have read. These volumes outline by chapter regions of the southwest, practical shooting guides, recommended trails, highway directions, weather, road difficulties, places to stay. The books are absolutely complete!

Another valuable series of books are produced by National Geographic. They have various volumes that cover the best places to photograph from Maine to California and they are also very reliable. National Geographic is not going to put their reputation on the line by provided poor or false information. They have no vested interest in having you go to one place over another. Their many “Field Guides” are the books to purchase.

If you are planning a trip abroad, the DK Eyewitness Travel Guides are among the best. These books can be purchased for an entire country or for just a famous city. The information given starts with a brief history and then breaks down into regions, sights, points of interest, historically significant art, monuments and buildings. These books include maps, suggested places to eat, places to stay, shopping venues, activities, entertainment, weather, transportation, and regional specialties. They even offer a section on personal safety. I have often traveled with this particular guide and on one occasion when I found myself stranded in Ireland, it indeed saved my trip!

Book research should be followed by internet research. The addition of internet information is a bonus. Beware however, relying solely on the internet is risky. Websites are meant to lure your business and while there are so many credible sites, the goal is to get your business. Start with the books. They are almost always written by independent parties who are simply reporting.


Specializing in Being Versatile January 31 2010, 0 Comments

Photography, like any other profession has specializations. Most schooled photographers will earn their basic degree and then choose an area of specialization. This makes perfect sense when working for an advertising agency, high fashion magazine, or sports team. But for free lance photographers, working knowledge of several areas of photography can mean the difference between working and not working.
I have found that maintaining three very different photographic specializations has served me well.

Portrait photography can be a versatile area in itself. Portraits can range from weddings, children, event photography, corporate photography, pets or individuals. Children present very specific challenges. I have only known two photographers who are what I would call gifted in this extremely challenging area. Likewise, weddings can be rewarding but require basic experience. Those starting out might work with individuals in studio and on location. Studio photography is one of the easiest places to control light and you can build a portfolio rather quickly. Working on location will help you gain confidence when measuring light on location.

Understanding how to photograph a landscape could allow you to find work in travel and tourism. It may also provide you with a solid portfolio of images to offer companies who are in need of images for their marketing materials or websites. The skill itself is enough to get you hired to photograph whatever landscape or cityscape that a company needs.

We are a nation of products. Everyone has some product or service to sell and nearly all want to share those products and services on the internet, television or in the print media. Building a solid product portfolio provides a wide range of employers. Individuals, small businesses and fortune 500 companies are always in need of updating their products, their appeal, their brand.

Your passion may be landscape photography or still life photography but remember, even Mozart gave piano lessons!