Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

I wanted to post to all a Merry Christmas to all that stumble upon this post. This holiday for me has been one that I have always looked forward to. Not because of the presents but because of the sprit of the holiday. This is a time for peace, hope and a time of renewal in the people of the world. I am drawn in by the song of the season and the lights that burn in the night. This season draws me towards family and friends and the joy I find in their company.

This year I have needed this season more then ever. Like many others life grows complicated and the pressures of it all sometimes crushes me. I have reached my 45th birthday this year and I am feeling a little shy of hopes and dreams achieved. I have worked hard on my photography but still have a long road to walk. My job title has changed a few times in the past 5 years and my compensation had declined. The job skills I have do not fit the typical careers that are out there. Although I can’t prove it, I do believe that the older you get the less your looked upon to fill empty positions out there. This has been a tough year and I have made it through and as it drawn to the next I pray for the strength to build on what I have done. To push myself in skill and vision as well as the knowledge directly and indirectly related to my photography.

So tonight may you find your sprit that brings you joy of the season, love to your family and the drive to be the best that you can be. Merry Christmas to all people of all faiths, friends and foes a like. You are all in my thoughts and prayers.

Monday, December 24, 2012

To Blog or Not

In the process of this photographic journey one item I had been struggling whether to continue to blog or not. To me the blog is a great way to communicate processes, lessons learned and photographs taken. As good as all that, blogs are time consuming and require the author to manage his or her time in order to post often and retain readers. For me my time management skills are not my strong suite, just ask the two readers and my wife. But the journey I am on to be a better photographer will only benefit by writing about it. To journal my success and failures and in doing so hopeful getting feed back from the readers.

So this is what I plan to do. My goal is to post once a week. Right now I am working ahead on posts so that I am not scrambling to put something up that is not very good. I am also thinking about the subjects I want to cover. For me I am drawn to process of photography, Film, Elements of design in photography the myriad of resources that I find interesting. Hopefully by the end of next year I have at least done 52 post and have 5 or more readers. Including me.

Until my next post on the first week of January, I hope all of you have a great and safe holiday.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Shooting Eggs

In the past week I have been shooting on a semi mad man pace to finish a project before November. Not sure I am going to make it because I am a little behind. My project is to photograph eggs in many different ways. I shot an egg that was cracked all across the surface of the egg. I did 3 standing and 3 that were dropped into some water. I have been happy on how they turned out and thought I would share some of what I did with anyone who would be interested.

I chose this project because of the challenge of lighting a white object on a white background. For the object to be seen you must have shadows and grey scales that need to be present on the egg, background or both. I also had to photograph my chosen subject in such a way that the viewer would be interested in the photo. That they could see it in as both functional, like stock work, and art that they could see hanging on the wall

The first shot I want to talk about used light painting with a hand held strobe to get the effect I wanted. The night before I hard boiled eggs and placed them into the fridge. The next day I took one egg and started to crack the egg and manipulated the shell to the way it is. Before I started to photograph the egg I looked at it and worked out how I wanted the features to be accented by light. Once I had a general idea where to start the experimenting began. Because I shoot digital I can do a few shots and then look at the results. After a dozen or so shots I came to my lighting formula that worked for me.

In lighting the egg I knew I needed to have a longer exposure so I put my neutral density filter on and turned the ISO to 100. Making sure that I was tack sharp on my focus I turned the modeling lights and basement lights off. Now looking at my subject I have a back light on my left and my second main light on my right. I open the shutter setting off the first round of lights. Next I take the small strobe and give the right side back of the egg 7 bursts of light. I then turn the flash to the right front part of the egg. I pointed the light just past the front so that the intense part of the burst was not on the very point of the egg. I gave this part 3 burst of light. Then a quick 3 burst of light on the back left and then 2 burst on the background. With all the light bursts I did I was fairly close to the subject, around the 5 to 6 inch mark.

Even though this all sounded very well planned out there were little nuances that happened from exposure to exposure that I saw. Because of that I had to do several different exposures until I got the one I liked. Now it was time for processing.

After tweaking the exposure in Bridge I placed it in to PhotoShop. Again tweaked some of the exposure to set it up for the black and white conversion. I convert all my images to black and white by selecting it in the layers menu. Once the filter menu comes up I started to select one that enhanced the cracks of the egg which turned out to be the blue filter. I moved the sliders here and there to get the best effect without too much destruction. Once I was set I clicked ok. I flatted the selection.

Now it looks black and white but for me it is not. I am a fan of the warm tones and when I had a wet lab I tended to use warm tone papers. So I turn the image to grey scale then duotone where I have a brown and black selected. Once it is switched then I switch back the image to RGB. The image wasn’t complete until I did a little dodging and burning to bring out the shadows and highlights of the egg. Size it and It was finished.

For the next post, the eggs in water. I have always wanted to try it and this project was the best excuse I had to just do it.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Photo Walk

Photo Walk; an event in which the participants are on a predetermined route and photographing anything that strikes their fancy. The purpose of this walk is two fold. First to offer an event that will hopefully challenges the individual to think about the photographic process in a new way. The second is to get a lot of photographers together to share ideas, photos, food, drink and a good time in one place. If this sounds like a great way to spend a fall afternoon then I have an event for you.

On October 13th I have created a Photo Walk that I believe will not only be fun but challenging to the average photographer. We will start at Green Square Park and move west towards the river and south ending up at Parlor City Pub. All that is on that route is what we are photographing.

I created this event to challenge you and offer an opportunity to explore new ways of photographing all that is around you. On the whole the route may not look like it offers much to photograph, but that is the challenge. There is a lot to shoot, you just have to be creative in the way you shoot it. If you have see my Google Plus and Facebook page you will have seen some of what I had done recently along that route. These are only just a few of the many things to shoot and how you shoot it may be and will be different in the way I did.

Once we are done or 6 pm arrives we will gather at Parlor City for food, drink and conversation about the days event. At this time you can share the photographs taken or wait to finish them up and upload them to a flicker account for others to see.

This event is open to all levels of photographers in all stages of their photographic experience. I will be open to help along the way as well as your fellow photographers. This event is not a formal class so there is not a specific course agenda to follow, just the hope that you will expand your photographic mind. However I am planning to hold classes that cover subjects that anyone from a beginner to the advance photographer will enjoy. Class information will be forth coming soon stay in touch.

So, up for the challenge? Want to try something different? Want to just get out and hang out with people with the same interests? Then join us on Saturday Oct 13 at 2pm in Green Square Park and be ready to try something new.

Monday, September 3, 2012

This Weekends Labor

Because it was Labor Day Weekend did not mean that I sat idle. Well Sunday was very idle but other than that day I have been busy creating photographs. Starting Saturday I when out to find things that struck a note with me. I have lived here all my life but this town is changing all the time and the way I see it in my minds eye is not always the reality of the situation.

Like I said I started out Saturday afternoon by the Great American Building just to look. Of course I took my camera. I figured that if I saw something I wanted to look not only to work out how I was going to photograph it in my minds eye, but I wanted to see it in the viewfinder. I have found with a few subjects the way I see it in my head doesn’t always translate in the same way in the viewfinder.

After the flood of 08 Cedar Rapids had been building a new Federal Courthouse Building down by the Great American Building (GAB). A design that is curved in the front with metal pillars and lots of glass. The middle has an open space that from either side you can see through. From one side it depending where you are standing it frames the Allient Building. As I walked around the building the side facing west caught my eye, so I sat and stared at it.

I started to work out how I wanted to capture this building. I was caught by the strong lines that push my eye to follow up and then left to right. The over hang in combination of the overhang balances nicely with the solid walls where the courts are housed. So I set up the camera on the tripod, placed the graduated ND filter on the lens and began to frame it. I knew I wanted a long exposure because I wanted the clouds drag through the sky to add a complementary motion against the lines of the building. Once I had it framed I thought I would snap a few photos just to be able to workout what I wanted to do with it later.

I then went to the a bridge that caught my eye when I biked to worked each day. Specifically the underside of the bridge. It had arches and shapes the repeated and moving water. Again I sat and worked out the angles looking through the viewfinder and checking exposures. After taking a few photos I was not happy with the results. Although the repeating shapes were pleasing it was the what was on the side or background of the photo that was distracting. So I walked across the bridge to check out the other side. In a nut shell it was not as good as I hoped. I think what makes the long bridge and peer shots is either an interesting background or the lack of on and this bridge had neither.

By this time I was ready to head home. As the GAB came in to view I started to work on how I wanted to photograph this building. The glass and angles is what made me want to photograph this building. After walking around it I found the spot I wanted to shoot. Going through the same process as the Fed Building I worked out the angels and exposures I thought would achieve my vision to print. I took a few photos and when home. With both buildings I took notes to use later to help move what is in my head to the paper.

I got home and with sufficient amount time passing I started to work the images. Again I am still in my process of working the image out to paper. Because I shot in RAW format I have some latitudes in the exposures. I begin with the Federal Building . I know that I want the strong lines of the building to stand out. The sky is key for that. The other element was the light on the glass. I did not want strong reflections off the glass that caused blinding highlights but it should accent the glass. Then the overall detail should not be lost to shadow except for a few spots.

I started out tweaking the exposure in RAW and bringing it over to PhotoShop. I started to use layer masking tool in combination with the curves tool. When I do exposure corrections I have started to think in zones. It’s new in a way. I have always done it but I never had a name for it or tied it with the Zone System. I don’t know why but I have always kept that thought process separate even though they are the same. So I move the windows down to a Zone 7ish from the 9 it was. After I established that I moved around the photograph and adjusted, burned, dodged the areas to make the overall grayscale pleasing while keeping it wide. The clouds started to fall into place during this process. I wanted them in motion but as they stands now I could not have planned it any better.

The upper right hand corner is hovering around a Zone 9 then moves down towards the building to a 8 and 7 with the edges a 3. That light really accents the west side glass so well. In the shadow areas I brought up enough detail so the metal pillars just don’t go up to a black abyss but not enough to be distracting.

At this point the photograph was still black and white. I like black and white but it can be a little cold so I like to warm things up and move it to a sepia tone. Once I did that I was starting to see the textures and grittiness of the glass and how rough the building looked for being almost finished . This is were I was not sure if I had been true to my vision or if I strayed off to something else. So I slept on it.

The next day I looked at it again. I came to the conclusion that it was both. A version of what I had in mind and a creation that built and expanded on it. I have to say I kind of surprised myself with the end product. For the final print I am toying with putting it on a metallic finish and of course make it BIG! If all comes out the way I think it will I am going to print it, frame it, and put it in the gallery. Keep you posted.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

What is Photography and a Photographer

Merriam Webster defines photography as; The art or process of producing an image(s) by the action of radiant energy and especially light on a sensitive surface such as film or optical sensor. Take a moment and think about that definition. Would you have or do you define photography in that manner? When you go out and take a photograph is that what your are setting out to do? Are you thinking that photograph in terms of capturing light? For me I know that light the most important part of the art but I guess I did not think of it as capturing light.

If your like most people, myself included, I would think of photography as the capturing of a scene that evokes an emotion or response by the viewer. But the logic is in front of you. It is all about the light. The light that is defused, direct, in the shadows and high lights. It is the way we control it on the film or sensor to the final print that makes or breaks the photograph. Light is to the photographer like paint is to the painter. It is our tool our medium that we must master in order to create the photograph we want.

Light is malleable. There are ways to shape the light by using diffusers, gobos, reflectors, and fill light. This is done a lot in portraits in order to create a pleasing final portrait. But this was not done only in photography. In fact the really good photographers understood this and looked to the master portrait painters to learn how to create a great portrait.

If you study the portrait painters of the baroque aria, like Rembrandt, you notice the use of lights and darks. The careful use of light that shows detail in the shadows and highlights. How light is manipulated to give depth to the subject(s) and the surrounds. That is what a good portrait photographer tries to do. Although the subjects and surroundings have changed, the strategies are still the same. Create a lighting situations by manipulating the light around them to create a pleasing portraits.

Light can be also natural or not manipulated. Landscape, nature or any photographer that photographs large areas. But instead of manipulating the light they wait for it. The circumstance of being at the right place at the right time is not played out with this type of photographer. Instead they study the area, waiting patiently for the right light that they can use. Once they understand their subject this photographer breaks down the light in to an exposure that would best fit what they are creating. Through this exposure the photographer either develops the film accordingly or manipulates it in a program like Lightroom, PhotoShop, or the many others to create the print that expresses their interpretation of the subject.

In either case the photographer is taking in all the light and manipulating it through exposure or tools of the trade to arrive to an end product that pleases them. They are painting with light much like the masters of old used their paints. But unlike the Masters the photographer of today we have many mediums in which to place that image on or with.

For the most part I see, and participated, the placement of images on the internet. The internet for its part is a medium that can be viral but not the best way to reproduce your image. There are many factors that can make your image look very poor. One would be the monitor. Not every ones monitor is color correct or of the higher quality to adequately reproduce your image. Image size also comes to mind. For most monitors all you see at best is a fifteen inch high image of your work. Because of lower resolutions the reproduction of the work can look pixilated, soft, dark or light but never at its best.

Prints are the best way to truly experience photograph and this is where you can get lost in how you want it printed. You have choices of photographic paper, inkjet prints on different types of paper, metal, metal like paper, cardstock, mugs and many others. For me large prints are the best and that is again where good photographer comes into play. See the larger the print, the more the flaws come out. If the image resolution is too low, image too soft, not clean or over processed all that comes out in a big print. As a photographer you must know and understand this. You must be able to create a photo, manipulate it to be able to print it in any size you want. Blow any of the steps to create a good photograph and the end produce will disappoint

Being a photographer is to paint with light. To understand light and use the tools at your hand to create the image you want. Being a photographer takes patients and vision to see your subject in a final product. To be a photographer you must shoot a lot of photographs in order to grow, you must be willing to fail at an image in order to succeed in the end. Being a photographer isn’t about the equipment you collect or the price you pay, its about understanding your tools and using them to the fullest in order to get the image you want. Being a photographer is always being fascinated by the light and ways to paint with it. Because that is what we do. Some very well and others not so.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Focus Focus Focus

I think the hardest thing about trying to get my foot hold in getting my work out there is the fact that I get easily distracted…..(Sorry shiny object) I mean I have so many ideas that I would like to try, just when I think of one to try something else pops up. That reminds me I need to get more soda and dog food. Crap. Or the other thing that happens is that I hear a really good pod cast with great ideas that totally puts my ideas to the back burner. Did I turn off the stove?

So here is what I did. I got a note pad and I am prioritizing the ideas I have and when I am going to act on them The note pad is just plain and I can draw and color..Speaking of color my fish looks like an odd color. So are oods. Oods are a strange looking creature…Anyway I am currently working out the priority of the ideas and hopefully I can get them started.

Here are just a few things I am mulling over. First I would like to figurer a way to stand out from the rest. There is a lot in a name and not that I am thinking of changing my name..Although when I was a kid I wanted to be called Magnum and grow the porn star mustache. But back to the naming thing. I could say I am a photographer and I would not be lying. But the title photographer is not carrying the weight I wanted it to. So I am working on a title that fits me. Crazy has been suggested.

The other thing I am thinking over is teaching a class or two. I believe that if I can, and you too, teach people that it is more than aiming the camera and pushing a button to photography then the title and our prices will make more since to joe public.

So focusing has been my problem this week but I think with this notebook I can keep my mind on the right path. Oh and as of today I have not heard back from the gallery I submitted work to.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Update on Photographic Journey

No I have not reached the end of my photographic journey just a refueling point I guess. So here is my update of what I have been doing.

As you can see by the other post of today I am working towards putting a website together. The only way of getting my stuff out there is to get a website gallery to show the work. And if people want to buy my work my website will have a way of doing so.

I have submitted work to a local gallery to have it juried in. The owners are going to look and judge whether or not I fit their gallery. I printed and matted 4 photographs that I felt represented my work. I just printed them as 8x12 and matted them so they looked complete. I thought about framing them but I have only so much to spend and providing a way to mail them back to the house would get pricy. If I am selected to sell there I have to come up with items to sell. I would like to sell big gallery wraps but I do understand that I should have some small items to sell. I am not a big fan of small prints. Too me small prints should have a function like a post card, book marker but not something you hang on a wall. Just my opinion.

In the between time I had spent a lot of time behind the camera shooting stuff around the house. I tried to photograph quality not quantity if that makes sense. I sat and observed before I shot, taking the time to look at the whole picture and not just react and shoot only to be disappointed in the end results. I also worked on my in camera editing. What I mean by that is concentrate on composition as well as exposure. I am limited in how I shoot now which I believe makes me a better shooter. I only have PhotoShop Elements 3 to use which doesn’t support RAW format. So by taking the time to get what I want I don’t find myself saying “I’ll shoot it and fix it later in PhotoShop.” I recommend this exercise to everyone. By pushing yourself up front you do less in post production which yields a better work of art.

So the goals I have is to get the website up by the end of September, come up with products to sell in the gallery that is unique. I have a book project I am in the process of doing that once it goes into production I will document it’s creation. Oh and photograph more. Ultimately I would like to be making a living at my photography and not what I am doing now. Not that what I do now is bad but I believe you should be happy doing what you do. It’s a long road before I can quit my job but

Building a better website.

Well maybe it would be more correctly stated, finding a web hosting site that fits my needs. There are many criteria’s that I need form a website; it must look good, easy to operate, able to sell work, and above all I must be able to afford it.

Websites are important in order to attract customers who are either wanting to buy your work or your services. In checking out many photographer’s websites I saw what I liked and disliked. What was easy to run and what was not so easy. I am drawn to the sites that is easy to load on my machine as well as easy to navigate. Believe me I found a lot of sites were that was not the case. In my world, and can’t believe that I am alone, I don’t want to have to think too hard to find what I want.

When I found a site that I thought was constructed well, easy to navigate and looked very sharp I scanned for a name to Google. Funny a lot of the good sites did not have a hosting site that I could get information from. Too bad so I did the next best thing, Google photography host sites. Now that I have done some research on what I liked in a site I could apply that knowledge to the array of host sites that popped up on my search.

First I needed to know what my needs were and what I wanted the site do for me. I thought I just wanted to have a gallery type of site that would not only have my photos but a blog for me to communicate with. But the more I though about it the more I did not want to loose possible impulse sales from visitors. So I started to look at websites that offered marketing and sales options.

When you talk about sales, marketing, placement of your site on search engines you can either find sites that have a great price but not so great templates, or high prices and great looking templates. Lets face it at this junction in my life I can not justify paying $500 a month for a site that I may not even get that in sales for the year. For the ones that I could afford more often I found they had cheesy templates which did not give off the look I was going for.

After some hours spent researching I found a site that was in my price range, had professional templates, marketing tools, easy to navigate for user and author, the ability to have a blog and link into social networks. I will leave the name out of it at this time until I am live and out there. During this process I will report back on the whole process of build and launching the site. Once it is up and going then I will let you know who I went with. I am hoping to get things rolling by the end of this month. I have $150 budgeted for the project and should have that by the end of the month. Keep you posted.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Bird Feeder

Well today I created my flat bed bird feeder that has a perch just above it. To complete the feeder it only took about an hour and I think it will last a few seasons. I made it out of partial board and a tree branch for the perch. Simple and hopefully effective in attracting birds for the better shot of them on a branch.

Here is the set up; I have filled the bird feeder with whatever I am trying to attract, black seed, meal worms, fruit and so on. I then set up the camera on a tripod with the focus and exposure locked. I then bow out of the scene and let the birds come to the feeder. As they feed some are bound to use the perch to eat and wait for the next round and when they do, I trip the camera with the remote and take the photo..

Sound great on paper it will be another in practice right? I am anticipating the camera potentially spooking them or the shutter sound, exposures either too dark or light, So I will be experimenting with camouflage and using the P setting (I hate the P setting). I am also considering creating a blind in front of the feeder to take full control of the camera but will see.

My next step is to fill the bird feeder and see how they like it. If that goes well then add the tripod to the scene then everything. This could take a few weeks to get to the first photo or it could take a couple of days who knows.

Keep you posted on what is working and what is not along with photos.

The other thing I have been working on is my second round of photos to get in to the unnamed micro stock company. The first round was kind of a kick in the gut and took my time to reflect on what they said. I also had to clean out the basement and create a studio spot. You would think getting photos in a stock place wouldn’t be that hard, but it is. Not impossible but it is hard. And that is probably a good thing because there is a lot of crap out there and to be honest some people do not know the difference.

Most of my problem was focus or placement so in the past few months I have read book about design, taken photos, and really worked on my issues. I am by no means cured of all my ills but I think I am recovering each day. I have a few photos I am enamored with and even printed one as a 5x7 of one, the lily, but still striving for more. So far I have 4 out 10 photographs shot. The bird photos are one photograph on the list of stock photos I want to send along with the bike, lab stuff and so on.

If you want to see what I have done just jump on this link and check out the photos. There is a few photos but not all of them.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Beyond The Snapshot

So what makes a snapshot and what makes a masterpiece? Give up? In my humble opinion is intent among other things. Again a snapshot is a quick photo to mark a moment, a record of time or a place, to record that you were there. Whereas a masterpiece has thought behind it a meaning of where it was shot, how it was exposed and printed. A masterpiece had been planned. All the variables such as weather, time of day, placement of camera and if the film was color or not as planned leaving nothing to chance. Very rarely has a snapshot ended up on the walls of an average collector. And if it did it would have to have been an historic event that was not captured by very few if not just one person.

Let’s relate this to an everyday experience. Since most of us are photographers I would think that at least half of us had put some time in doing portrait work. I started back in 1992 in a studio called Expressly Portraits. I learned and honed my craft to the point I branched out to do weddings. Now most of us would say that the majority of time and effort goes into the portraits of the bride, groom and the rest of the wedding party. I lot myself at least two hours of shooting time to get everyone photographed. Even before I have even shot a frame, the night before at the rehearsal I look over the whole church for lighting and atmosphere to capture the important portraits. And when it comes to the reception most of the shots are quick snaps of the bride, groom and guest enjoying themselves. It would be insane to put the same time and effort into the reception

The other example, for those who don’t do weddings, is the photographs of Half Dome that Ansel Adams had created and the hundreds of thousands of photos everyone else had done. I don’t know the whole story of that photograph but I can surmise what had transpired in the creation of that photograph. In what I know of Ansel He must of watched that rock, studying it to see it’s best time and worst. He thought about the angles, exposure, lens, time of day to get the best portrait of Half Dome he could get. My guess is that he wanted to convey the majesty of the mountain and the way it affects him every time he sees it. Google it and look at all the images that he created and tell me you don’t feel the aw and beauty of that mountain? Tell me you are not the least bit motivated to see that mountain after looking at that portrait?

Now let’s compare it to everyone else’s photo. Compare it to the millions of people who venture out and take a photo of that mountain. 99% of all the photos taken of that mountain are just documenting the fact they were there. To take a picture and place it in an album or on the wall with the other family photos, a keepsake. For the most part the photograph was taken and not created. There was no study of light, angles, exposure or whether it should be color or black and white. Little to no thought was put into this photo, just a quick line up and a push of a button. Unless a UFO or some metrological event happens at the same time the shutter opens, the photo is not unique. It doesn’t have a voice or purpose other than documenting family history.

Don’t take what I say the wrong way I am not a photo snob. I love snapshot and have taken a lot of them of family, friends and my tried to pass it off as my work. But in order for myself and anyone reading this, you must think of intent when it comes to your art. I must put an intent behind my art. I used to do this with my portraits but not in all my art.

Intent is a purpose of what you are trying to convey, right? So here is the assignment; what I plan to do is find something that I believe is ugly create a pretty portrait. I have been thinking about this for a while. I plan to photograph Cedar Lake an ugly little lake surrounded by trains and an interstate but in studying it I have seen some things that make it pretty. So let us divide the assignment up in two parts. First take an photograph of the subject , a snapshot. Then take some time and study the subject and find out when it is at its best. Once you see it create the photograph. Keep notes, notes are good but until the critique is finished, not allowed. After the critique you can write your notes.

In the meantime I am creating the guidelines for a good critique so that as a group we are constructive to each of the member. I will have a post about it soon with the link to the group.

A Photographic Journey

I have been out of college now for more than 15 years. That is 15 years of not analyzing the photographs I and others have created. 15 years of not talking about what is a good photograph or how it has failed. So everything I have learned has not been reinforce and cultivated to make me a better photographer. Now, and back then, with the internet that should not have happened. I should not have let the left side of my brain atrophied so when I do use it, I strain it and fall short of my desired goal. So what is a photographer on their own to do? Review, shoot, and get critiqued.

Up to now I have put my photos out there and I have had a few comments that have been flattering and that is cool. But flattering comments do not improve one’s skill as a photographer. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good stroke of the ego, but a simple stroke is not always enough information or direction for the photographer or artist to learn. What pushes and pulls the learning curve are detailed critiques of the photograph in front of you. What works, what doesn’t, where does the eye go, is there enough or too much, is it better in color or black and white? I like it should be the last thing you say. I find that if you are able to give a true critique of the work then it is easier to validate you’re like or dislike of the piece.

As a photographer I should only give a little to no explanation of the piece. I should have taken the time to create a photograph that should say it all without writing it down. Think about it, have you ever looked at a photograph by Ansel Adams, Edward Weston , Dorthea Lange and not get the message of what they are trying to say? For that matter just look at any top photographer’s work and you should see the message of their work. Isn’t that why we are creating photographs? To say something about what is important to us? As a creator of the photograph we should be crafting the work that makes the viewer think and feel what you feel. Your message whether big or small should be conveyed on the surface of the paper, otherwise it is just a snapshot.

So what has moved me to this stage in my work? I would have to say it is because I was not happy with all that I have created and I needed to change that. I am not consistent, focused or have a clear mission to my work. I just photograph one thing and move on to the next. I don’t always look at how I frame it, what I include or exclude in the frame. Are the lines, shapes, color or contrasts moving the eye around the piece? I have asked myself why am I rarely moved by my images in the same way I am moved by other photographers. I don’t feel bad about what I have or haven’t done, I just need more. I need to have at least my wife say “I want that on my wall.” Tidbit about my wife, she is very particular about photography. She has a background in portrait photography and had earned enough points at our company to be a Master Craftsman. (Points were based similarly to the PPA requirements) So, yes very hard to pass off crap or half crap to her.

Roughly two weeks ago I picked up a book by David DuChemin called “Photographically Speaking.” This book is a great review of all that is important in to what makes a great photograph. So far I have read about have the book and feel I need to start anew with my craft. It has challenged me to look at what I have created and define that work based off the rules of good design.

So I am on a photographic journey to improve my skills as a communicator in photography. I want to refine my skill as a photographer so the messages I send out are easily read by the viewer. I want to create a photograph that moves people to see what I see, feel what I feel, and explore farther or other directions then I had. I have one goal to complete in my life time with my work and I want to complete it. And if I continue to do what I have always done, I will not come anywhere near that goal. I will have failed and pass incomplete. I can’t do that and this is what I plan to do. First keep reading; this book is great and I recommend this to anyone. Second; blog about what I am learning. If you want to strengthen the skill you have learned, teach someone else. Third; create assignments that build on design principles taught in the book; Forth; create a flicker group that has assignments and critiques the work each. Through these steps I hope to get better at what I do as well as help others to do the same.

Keep you posted

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Quick Blind

Because today was a bright sunny day and the birds were bathing in our water feature, I felt the need to take their photos. This was the type of day to set up and learn how to take a good photo of a bird which should be easy, right. All I needed was my burlap, tripod, camera and shutter release cord. I did say burlap. I use this as a simple blind and I mean simple.

I started out by observing where the most activity of the day seemed to be. This happens to be the water feature of our pond. Because it holds some water while spilling the rest, it draws in the birds. They like to bath and drink in it and sometimes fight over it. So I set up my camera on the tripod as close as I could. I only have an 18-135mm lens to use so I need to get close. Because I am close it would be ideal to have a radio remote shutter release but I don’t. I just have a 2 foot long shutter release cord and as close as I am, all I’m going to get is a whole lot of nothing. This is where the camouflage burlap comes in handy.

Last winter I got a camouflage burlap screen in hopes to set up a blind which I didn’t. But this did work out for the better and this is how. After setting up the camera I grabbed a chair and the burlap and placed it over me. I stretched it out so that I have no real shape and because it is rather easy to see through all I had to do is watch and wait.

In a few minutes the birds started to survey the area. They would look hard at the lump and be kind of spooked by it. Eventually one of the birds got brave, went to the water feature and began to drink . Once the bird was drinking I started shooting. The birds did not mind at first but after a few clicks they took off but by then it was too late, I got they’re photo. The birds finally got comfortable enough they did not even pay attention to the click of the shutter. I got a lot of photos but of course most were slightly soft or blured by action. So I made some readjustments and went out shooting again. Got a few more shots and called it a day.

Now most of the birds around the area are sparrows and for the most part they seem to tolerate a lot. I would like to try this out at different times of day because of the different birds that congregate. I am hoping that this set up works for them as well.

So if you’re looking for a quick cheap blind, don’t rule out an inexpensive piece of burlap. If they can see you they don’t know you’re there.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

A Project Started

I have recently crested the age of, well old, and with each passing birthday I have taken a hard look at my year past. I measure up what I have accomplished with what is still needed to be done. Well at this time I feel that I have not completed much and it is not for a lack of trying. No my problem is procrastination. I love putting off what I could do today for tomorrow, just ask my wife. However I do believe that I am getting better at completing tasks that I don’t always like but I still have to work at it. The proof is in my long honey do- list that is brought out by my wife from time to time.

With the passing birthday I have set out to to do that one thing I have always wanted to do but felt I was not sure where to start. I have thought about it, people have told me to do it, and now it is time to do it. With pencil to note pad I sketched out a plan to work into a large project like this. It is not easy to start photographing a project this size without a plan...Right? Not having a plan is one of the principle reasons I have not attempted this earlier but now that I have a plan why not try. I can always change and update what I am trying to do and in the end I am creating the images for me with the hope someone else might like them too.

I have admired a lot of different photographers in my life time. I was drawn to the striking black and white images of Ansel Adams, the beautiful color of the prairie captured by Michael Forsburg , the Nebraska Images of Joel Store and Jim Brandenburg’s wolves and ravens. Not to forget the images of Texas that Wyman Meinzer that did .My dad had sent me that link. All those images have all filled my head and moved me to want to in some way recreate that. I can’t, nor do I wish to but instead I would like to accomplish what they have done in the state I live in.

So my goal this year is to start photographing Iowa and capture the images that best reflect the way I am moved by the beauty of this state. I plan to do this in both color as well as black and white. Try to reflect the life and all that goes on. Yup I just might have just bitten off more than I can chew but I have to give it a try. Life is short and that is no more apparent than when you work in a hospital, so I have to try. Otherwise I fear that on my death bed I will be saying, “I should have tried” instead of “I did what I wanted to do.”

So today I started on my quest with a trip to Kepler State Park and walked around with no intention to photograph anything. I just wanted to see the park and get familiar with it. I have always found my best work comes from what I know best. I figured that if I get to know the area in and around the park then I could get some great images. And as time moves on I can radiate out from there until I have covered the state.

The other thing I am trying to reconcile is whether to display my images as I finish them or hold them back for later. The great thing about showing them off on the internet is the immediate feed back but the surprise or freshness of the image is gone at the time of display. I am afraid that I will get caught in the need to shoot more to fill the book or show when I have the photographs already. I guess I will try to meet in the middle somehow.

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