Juried Show - Garrison Art Center in New York

 
I have two pieces being shown  in the PHOTOcentric Juried show at the Garrison Art Center from December 5,2015 to January 10,2016 in Garrison, New York.

Liftoff (shown above) won first place in the open division.

The other image being shown is Rainbow Feet

 


Juried Exhibition - Center for Photographic Art

I have a photo being exhibited as part of the 2015 International Juried Exhibition—A Single Photograph Competition at the Center for Photographic Art in Carmel, CA. The show runs from November 21 through January 09, 2016


Improve Your Photography - Take a Workshop

I just got back from Lake Powell where I participated in the Dynamic Nude Workshop held there by Joel Belmont. Joel does several workshops at Lake Powell and this one was for advanced photographers, meaning there was not going to be a lot of instruction, instead Joel would take us to various locations and we would plan our own shots. This was fine by me as I was mainly taking the workshop for access, and didn't really expect to learn something, but a funny thing happened as it does on all workshops.... I actually learned something and my photography improved as a result.

Marinating in Photography

My Dad used to go to 3-day or 5-day golf workshops and always played better as a result. He pointed out to me that when you are focusing on learning and hitting 1000's of golf balls a day you can't help but get better. Rarely would you go out and hit that many golf balls in a day on your own. The same thing happens with photography workshops, from the time I wake up until the end of the day when I go to sleep I am concentrating on nothing but photography. We get up and shoot, come back edit photos, go shoot again in the afternoon, come back and edit photos, do a photo critique and go to bed. I call it "Marinating in Photography", because I am surrounded by nothing but the pursuit of photography all day. No distractions, just shoot, edit, repeat. I always find that my vision, my way of seeing, my editing skills all improve as a result of the non-stop pace of a good workshop.

Hanging Out With Your Tribe

The other photographers at a workshop are my people, they understand me and the issues that I face in photography, we can have deep meaningful conversations about photography and I always learn something about photography from my peers at workshops. During this recent workshop at Lake Powell one of the participants showed me his simple technique for making a nude image stand out in a black and white image and it blew my mind and made me a black and white convert. (I'll share the technique in an upcoming blog post. Subscribe so you don't miss it :) ).

During our editing sessions there was a constant sharing of techniques, approaches. Every photographer thinks about an image differently and I learned something from each and every one of the participants at the workshop. Many workshops we edit alone in our hotel rooms each night, but I found I got so much more out of the workshop by having these group editing sessions. I'm going to seek this out for future workshops.

Sharing and Critique

I have often discussed the value of good critique, it is how I learned to be a photographer. I also see it through the growth of my apprentices in The Arcanum, every single one of them has grown as a result of the critique they receive from me. At workshops the critique sessions are extremely valuable and not for the reason you might think. Yes, you get feedback on your image, but for me the real value comes from seeing the work of others. Most of the time they are at the same location as I am, standing next to me, taking images of similar subjects and their images look nothing like mine! I learn to see in different ways. That is huge! We tend to get stuck in ruts and follow familiar patterns, seeing someone else's approach and how they look at the world helps me break out of my traditions and standard patterns and try new techniques.

Recharging Your Creative Battery

I always come away from a workshop reinvigorated and full of creative ideas and shots I want to pursue. Our creativity and passion levels ebb and flow and it can often be a struggle to get back in the swing of things and get out there and take photos that are meaningful to me. Workshops are always the kick in the butt I need to get me going again.

Next Workshop

I'm already looking for my next workshop to sign-up for. What is your favorite?

 

Cover photo courtesy of Ryan Fenix Sumner. Used with his permission.


The Decisive Moment?

Henri Cartier Bresson talked about the notion of the inevitability of a decisive moment in photography. That moment where everything comes together. As photographers we strive for that decisive moment. Around the same time on the west coast of North America, Ansel Adams was quoted as saying, "You don't take a photograph, you make it". This is often interpreted to mean that the real work happens in the darkroom/post-processing.
Most of my photography has been about making photographs, not trying to capture the ideal moment. I have no issue with removing distracting elements, changing the lighting, etc to create an image that matches the creative image I have in my head.

 

I Create My Photos

 

Lately I've been shooting more street photography and am finding that capturing that decisive moment can be very difficult. I often have in my minds eye the image I want to capture, but the people on the street don't always cooperate. Sometimes, I'm just not quick enough, which brings me to the photo at the top of this post.
I was in Rome and leaving my hotel for a day of photography. Straight across the street was the scooter in the image above, out of the corner of my eye I saw the lady in the red hat walking up the street. I knew right away the image I wanted to capture. However I was ill prepared, my camera was still in my camera bag slung across my back. I quickly dropped the bag, unzipped it, yanked out my camera, turned it on and took the photo below.
Decisive Moment 2
A quick aside, one of the lessons I learned years ago was to always leave my camera in a ready to shoot state, so before I put my camera in the bag I always make sure it has a new flash memory card, ISO is set to 200 (or auto-ISO for my Olympus), Aperture priority, aperture at f/8.0, that was the only reason I got a shot at all.
I missed the decisive moment I was hoping for, she was a little too close to the scooter. I was bummed but I learned a lesson, and for the rest of the trip had my camera ready whenever I left the hotel room.

 

Making the Photo

 

Fast-forward two weeks. I get back home and start to go through my images, this one with the scooter I had been thinking about every day since the day I missed it. Yes, I had missed the decisive moment with the capture, but I thought I could still make the image that I had in my head. So one of the first photos I edited was this image. It took about 10 minutes of Photoshop work to move the girl to the location I had imagined. I made a better image as a result.

 

The Decisive Moment?

 

By manipulating the image I was able to show the decisive moment, would it have been better to capture it in camera? Perhaps, but for me there is no real difference, the image shows the moment I wanted to show. Is this any different than using burst mode on the camera to capture a series of images and then picking the decisive moment during the culling process?

 

The Future

 

I recently shot an event with a friend of mine, during part of the event he shot 4K video and then later extracted images from the video that showed the decisive moment he wanted to show. I had tried with burst mode on my camera and missed it. Which is better, to have the shot, or to have nothing? Many are saying that shooting 4K video is the future of photography.
Some people look at my modification of the image or extracting from 4K video as something almost blasphemous, saying it's not real photography. They can believe that if they wish, but I disagree. I'm not trying to record the world as it is, I am trying to convey to others the visions in my head. It is my art, my vision, so I'm free to express it anyway I wish.
What do you think? I would love to hear your comments below.

Essential Travel Tools for the Photographer

For the past 26 days I've been travelling all over Europe taking photographs, a lot of photographs. In this post I wanted to share a couple of items that I took with me that I found indispensable.

Traveling Light

On my last trip to Europe 3 years ago I took over 45 lbs of camera and computer gear. This trip I wanted avoid that weight so I went with the bare minimum.

Micro 4/3rds Camera

Instead of my heavy Canon 5DmkIII I decided to take the Olympus OMD EM-1 with 4 lenses,

This gave me an effective range to 14mm-600mm which should cover every situation I was like to encounter. Normally I would not take the 75-300mm lens, but 1 week of the trip was a Mediterain Cruise and I wanted some reach from the cruise ship. In hindsight that was the right decision.

iPad instead of Laptop

This was a harder decision. I needed mail/internet access, the ability to edit photos, and a way to backup photos. On several recent domestic trips I had taken my laptop with the plan of editing photos and then never got motivated to do so. So my thinking was I would just use the iPad for some light editing, and save all the heavy Photoshop work for when I got home. My editor of choice on the iPad is Snapseed (they also have an Android version) so I was covered for the editing. Now my only issue was backing up my photos.

Backup Strategy

I purchased a few extra SD cards so I would not have to reuse cards while on my trip. But I still needed to make a backup of them each evening. I did some research and decided on the Western Digital My Passport Wireless. This is a great little drive. It has a built-in battery, wifi, and most importantly a SD slot.

Each night I would put the SD card in the WD drive, push a button and it would copy the contents of the SD card to the drive. It has the option for to erase the card or leave the photos on the card, it is smart enough to not copy photos that it has already backed up. A great solution.

In addition using the wireless capabilities I was able to use my iPad to browse the photos and download the ones I wanted to edit and post on all of my social media sites.

Charging

Part of life these days are all of my electronic devices that I travel with that need to be charged, my iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, the WD My Passport, etc. One of the challenges is finding enough plugs in a hotel room to charge all of my (and my family's) devices. When travelling domestically I put a power strip in my suitcase so I only need to find one vacant plug in the room and can charge 6 devices, but that power strip won't work in Europe at 220V, so I needed to find another solution. I ended up with a Photive 50W USB Charger. This device is AWESOME, it has six USB ports and allowed me to charge all of my devices from a single outlet. It works at both 110V and 220V and has now replaced the power strip in my suitcase.

Photive 50 Watt Charger

Conclusion

Overall this all worked great. I did have one small issue, I lost my iPad halfway through the trip but was able to borrow my wife's some nights to do some quick editing. I loved how light my camera bag was and carried it with me a lot more than I might have if I had my DSLR.

The only downside was not having my laptop to sort/keyword/edit photos each night. The result was I got home with over 6000 images and it took me a couple of days just to organize and keyword them all. Would have been easier to do a little bit at time each night instead of all at the end of the trip.

Next time I travel I plan to use the same basic strategy as outlined above, it worked very well.

What do you take on your travels that you find indispensable?

 


Goals

Review of 2014 Photography Goals

At the beginning of each year I plan out my photography goals for the coming year.

Here is the post where I talked about my goals for 2014. It is now 2015 and time to review those goals.

Here Were My 2014 Goals

  • Become a Better Photographer
    • Attend one workshop or conference every quarter
    • 30 mins of photography education every day (see this blog post)
    • Schedule one photowalk every month
    • Schedule one photography trip every quarter (Oregon Coast, Zion, Boston, Page)
  • Grow my Photography Audience
    • Post 2 photos/week on social media sites
    • Submit every new project to print publications until it is published
    • Enter a photo contest very month
    • Pursue and participate in a galley show every quarter
  • Create Epic Photos
    • Schedule one large production shoot every quarter
    • Complete 4 current photo projects
      • Shoot Multiscapes II in January
      • Shoot one conceptual photo each month
      • Schedule 3 shoots to complete Paper Doll project
      • Edit and compile Reflections photos
    • Start 4 new projects

How Did I Do?

Become a Better Photographer

I did reasonably well with these goals. I attended workshops with Aperture Acdemey in Yosemite, a workshop with Glen Wexler  at the Palm Spring Photo Festival, Photoshop World in Las Vegas, and a Kim Weston Nude Workshop in Carmel.

I had photo trips to the Salton Sea, Joshua Tree NP, Oregon Coast, Rome, Yosemite and Alaska (although Alaska was not specifically a photography trip I did get some great photos).  I did a total of 9 photowalks so not quite one a month, and I did my 30 mins of photography education each day for a total of 312 days. So I consider this a success and would give myself an A.

Grow my Photography Audience

I struggled with portions of this. Let's start with the successes. I showed my work in 9 different exhibits and galleries. Two of these were art shows where I was able to sell my art and I made over a dozen sales of my prints at these 2 shows. I entered 7 contests and won awards in 5 including the grand prize in the 3rd Eros Awards. I found it difficult to enter one contest a month as there weren't a lot of contests that accept  nude works and my non-nude works I don't feel are quite up to my standards yet.

Now for the failures. I did posted a lot more photos to social media than I have in the past but it was very sporadic and was no where near 2 photos/week. Part of my challenge is I want to post some of my latest nude works, but I can't easily do so on social media. I'm going to work on this for 2015.

I also did not do well with submitting work to publishers until it gets published. I did attend FotoFest in Houston where I showed my work to numerous publishers, but no takers. My challenge here seems to be more about identifying appropriate publications to submit to.

Create Epic Photos

I did well on doing a large production shoot every quarter, I ended up doing five. I did the Rainbow Multiscapes, Joshua Tree nudes, Burying bodies in the sand, created a wet set in the studio for water shoots, and did a series of flour shoots. I'm happy with the results from all of them except the sand shots, they did not live up to my vision. Overall I'm very happy with the shots I got from these big productions and it just reinforces the idea that doing the hard work has it's rewards.

Homepage-01 Homepage-06

Homepage-05

I did change my direction over the year and ended up abandoing the Paper Doll project, I also did not shoot one conceptual photo each month or start 4 new projects. I feel like I could have shot a lot more this past year, but I struggled with concepts. I tried to fit all my shoots into the overall umbrella of "The Body as Art" and I think that restricted me somewhat from trying other things that might have resulted in some significant new project. So I've learned from that and going to make sure I don't get stuck in a rut with my photography projects.

Grade A for big production shoots, F for new projects, with biased and weighted averaging I'm going to give myself a B. :)

What's Next?

Now it is time to create my list of goals for the coming year. I'll save that for another post.

So how you do last year?

 


Fill Your Creative Pantry

Filling the well, stocking the stream, feeding the beast, restocking the shelves, no matter what you call it, as an artist it is important to constantly consume other art to keep your creative juices flowing. The creative muse can be a fickle mistress and when she leaves you it is often because she has no raw materials to work with. If you are stuck creatively the best thing you can do is go consume other forms of art.
 

Visit a Museum

Whenever I travel I am always on the lookout for interesting photography exhibits, I have seen exhibits by some of the greats, Helmut Newton, Sally Mann, Dorthea Lange, Robert Frank, and many others, Sometimes it is just group shows by relatively unknown artists. If there are no photography exhibits in town I will seek out museums and galleries. It doesn't matter the medium. I have found inspiration for my photos from scultputues, paintings, glass work, abstract art, you name it. Looking at work of other artists is always inspiring and it is rare that I visit a museum and not come away with at least a couple of ideas for future projects.
 

Be a Couch Potato

I don't have to go somewhere to find this inspiration, I often get flashes of insight while watching TV. The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas has awesome ads that always get my creative juices flowing, as do the ads from the American Horror Story series. They have some great visuals in these ads and instead of skipping commercials I often find myself pausing them while I search for a piece of paper to write down some new concept for an image (I now keep a notepad next to the TV remote).
 

Surf the Web

Don't watch TV? Then surf the web and look at images; 500px is a favorite of mine, it is full of inspiring images. I also will go explore the images of the master photographers from the past. I can't look at Rodney Smith images without having at least 2 or 3 photo concepts pop into my head.
 

Take a Hike

Going for a walk is also a great way to fill my creative well. Whether I'm walking in nature, or down a city street, I am constantly seeing how the shadows interact with my surroundings, how a bright color attracts my eye. These go into my database of images which I can draw from in the future. Another important aspect of walking is that it causes my mind to wander, and it is when my mind is wandering that some of my best creative ideas appear.
 

Look at the Pictures

Coffee table photography and art books can be a wonderful source of creative fodder. Also photography magazines that are about showing the images, my favorite is Lenswork Magazine. I also like the Craft and Vision Photograph series. I always find each issue to be inspirational.
 

Let It Simmer

Creativity doesn't happen from a vacuum. It is the result of all of these visual stimuli that you collect throughout your day, week, month, they rattle around inside your head mixing together. It's like a giant puzzle that you are working on in your head....no wait...it's like a making soup, you put all the ingredients in a bowl and let it simmer on the stove until it is done....wait...it's like...like a blender of margaritas, swirling all these visual elements around...oh I know it's.... Alright enough with the metaphors, the reality is that you need to collect visual stimuli, and at some point there will be a trigger that will pull these visual snippets together and idea for a photograph will appear in your head. When that happens, thank your muse, make the shot, and then start collecting again.
 

Improve Your Travel Photography With Self Assignments

I have been travelling a lot this past month and while I tend towards photographing people in the studio I also take my camera with me whenever I travel. I use these trip as a way to expand my photography horizons., whether it is improving my landscape photography skills, practicing street photography or  just documenting my trip by taking my own "postcard" shots. I view every trip as a learning opportunity.

To facilitate this learning I give myself daily photography projects or assignments in any new location. These assignments are cumulative, meaning if I decide on Monday that I am going to shoot photos of doors, and Tuesday that I am going to shoot patterns I will still shoot any interesting door I might come across on Tuesday and through out the rest of the trip.Here are some of my daily self assignments I shot while in Rome and Florence, Italy.
 

People in  Windows

 
My original plan was to shoot photos of the windows and shutters because I liked the patterns, but often I would encounter  a person looking out the window.  I thought this made the image even more interesting, so the next day's assignment was people in windows.
 
 People in Windows People in Windows People in Windows People in Windows
 
 

Patterns and Shadows

 
This isn't a daily assignment, but an ongoing project for the past year. If I am walking down the street and a pattern or shadow catches my eye I will stop and photograph it. This often makes it a pain in the ass to walk with me. It's especially bad if I'm on a tour, I often fall behind and lose the tour guide.
Pattern Pattern Pattern Pattern
 
 

People Walking in Front of Interesting an Background

 
Photographer Jay Maisel as well as many other street photographers talk about this technique. Find an interesting background and wait for people to walk into the scene.  I thought it was interesting that when I got back home and looked at these images on my computer my favorites were the ones with people wearing red shirts. May have to expand on this on my next outing.
 
Walkers Walkers Walkers Walkers
 
 

Close-ups of Statues

 
While in Florence I went to see Michalegelo's statue of David. They have recently changed the rules and now allow photos to be taken. I took the obligatory wide angle full shots of David, but then I started zooming in and isolating a particular portion of the statue. I found these images interesting so the next assignment was created. I originally started doing close-ups of everything, but really liked the photos of hands, so by the end of the week I was focusing just on the hands of statues. This is a good example of how an assignment can morph into a more interesting concept where you might just find a new path or direction you never would have considered at the beginning.
 
Statue Statue Statue Statue
 
 

Domes and Ceilings

 
In both Rome and Florence you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a church or some other building with an interesting dome. I like these domes because of the patterns that they have, I find them very interesting and strangely compelling.
 
Dome Dome Dome Dome
 
 

Doors

 
This is another ongoing project. Every city has unique architecture and often very interesting doors. What I found interesting is almost all doorways I saw were based on an arch. That occurs in other cities but with nothing close to the frequency as it did in Rome.
 
Door Door Door Door
 
 

Conclusion

 
None of these photos by the themselves are a work of art, but occasionally a body of work can come out of these exercises. If nothing else it improves my ability to see and hones my skills for the next time I walk down the street with my camera in my hand. I highly recommend these assignments to improve your photography. Give them a try the next time you travel and tell me how they work for you.
 
I have compiled many of these images into a slideshow that you can view here

Gaining Experience

If you hang around me for any length of time you are going to hear my favorite quote, "experience is what you gain the moment after you don't need it". It is one of my go to phrases and I probably say it so much that my friends are sick of it. I don't know where the phrase came from, but as I was writing this I looked it up on Google and got a similar quote from the comedian Steven Wright, "Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it". I don't recall ever hearing Steven Wright say it, but it's close enough that I will attribute it to him.
 

So What Does It Mean?

I like this phrase because it can be interpreted in many different ways. It can embody the slogan of my alma mater Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, "Learn by Doing", it can also represent the old adage that we learn from our mistakes. The key point to it is that you need to take action in order to learn, and to gain that experience. You can memorize books, study the works of the great masters of photography, but until you actually take the camera in your hand and take a photo you will not be an experienced photographer.
 

Procrastination and Fear

I have written recently about how I'm afraid to schedule photo shoots. I postpone, I procrastinate, and I wait until the conditions are right. As I wrote, some of this is because of fear of failure but there is another type of fear that keeps me from scheduling a shoot and that is fear of the unknown. I often don't know how I am going to get the shot I have in my mind's eye. I don't know what I'm doing, I look around at the clients, models, and make up artists and wonder if they can see that I don't have a clue. But I power through it, I take some shots, I make some adjustments and 9 times out of 10 I get the shot I wanted. I didn't know what I was doing, but now I do. I'm now experienced and know what to do the next time.
 

Life is just a series of experiences strung together

Life is just a series of experiences strung together, so we should have as many experiences as possible. This is probably my second most used phrase. To me it means Carpe Diem, try new things, confront your fears, take bold photos, and create Epic shit! Jump into new experiences and you will become an experienced person. Try new experiences with your photography and you will become an experienced photographer!
 
So tell me about your new experiences in the comments below!
 

Take a Photo Trip!

Want a sure fire way to take better landscape photographs? Plan a photo trip. Every photo trip I have ever done has resulted in some of my top photos of the year.

Why a Photo Trip?

The reason I get such great photos on photo trips is focus, and I don't mean camera focus, mental focus. Because I am there to take photographs and nothing else I immerse myself into the task. I get up before sunrise and finish up after sunset; I take my time at the location trying different compositions and angles; I experiment with long exposures, panoramas, and HDR. I plan!

Planning

This is probably one of the more important aspects of a photo trip. Before the trip I will map out my destinations, look at tide tables, and sunrise/sunset times. But even when my plans go awry I still get good shots, because I have time, I have a purpose, and I have a single task. Take photos.

Dedicated Time

This is why photo trips are so successful. You have time to take photos, you aren't rushed. When I am travelling with my family they are somewhat tolerate of me taking photos, but they expect me to get a shot in a few minutes whether the lighting is right, or the tide is wrong. When I am by myself or with other photographers there is no problem setting up and spending an hour at a location waiting for just the right conditions and getting the best shot I possibly can.

It Doesn't Have to Be Far

A photo trip doesn't mean that you have to pack your bags and book a flight. It can be somewhere local, somewhere you can drive to in a day. It's not the destination that is important it is dedicating the day to photography that is going to allow you to take better photos.

Look for Opportunities

Do you need to travel for work? Perhaps add a day or two onto the end of the trip and go photograph the local sights. I recently did this on a trip to Portland. I was there with friends the beginning part of the week, after dropping them off at the airport I headed West and spent several days photographing the Oregon coast (where I took the photo of the Wreck Peter Iresdale at the top of this post).

I did the same thing when I went to the Palm Springs Photo Festival in April, after the festival I spent a day at Joshua Tree and then an additional day at the Salton Sea finishing off a project there. Airfare was already paid, the car rental actually went down because I was renting for a full week. I just needed a couple of cheap hotels for the extra night.