A Good Harvest - My 2016 Photos

A Good Harvest

Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop
– Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams

My 2016 Harvest

This past year was a strange one for me photographically. It started with me unsure where I was headed, I had a couple of studio sessions where I flailed around with ideas trying to come up with some new body of work. I did continue my “On the Rocks” series but overall I felt directionless.

Looking back at the year and the photos I produced all of the work was sporadic and produced in March, May, September and December. I had months where I didn’t pick up a camera and had no motivation to, yet in those 4 months were I did pick up the camera I produced more and better images than I ever have in the past.

I took 38097 photos in 2016 which is almost 33% more than I did in 2015 (24,063).

The Breakdown

Non-Model Models Totals
Total 7,810 30,287 38,097
Keepers 137 196 333
Portfolio Worthy 49 134 183
5 Star 11 25 36

Keepers – these are the photos that I actually edited and considered finished.
Portfolio Worthy – There are images that I actually exhibited or showed to others via my web site, social media, etc.
5 Star – These are the photos I consider my best work of the year. These are my “Harvest” or “Crop” for the year

The Images


When I was putting together this post I was concerned that I had so many I considered great images and wondered if I was just not being critical enough of my photos. But most have won awards or been published which seems to imply that other people appreciate them as well. Would love to have you feedback on the images.

Mixing It Up

I think it is interesting that the images fit into 3 categories, a continuation of my On the Rocks series, the Utah Adventure trips really helped with this, being able to spend straight 5 days shooting really helped me get into a great photographic mindset and really explore some ideas.

The second group are the studio shots and these predominantly part of the series I call Geometric Progression, and involve using black and white as the main theme in the images. There were was also one from the Blind Religion body of work, and a new one from my as yet untitled Room series. Except for the Room series all of these images were done in the first couple of months of the year when I still felt like I was flailing about.

The final group are the underwater images. I tried it on a fluke in August and was pleased with the results I was getting right off the bat so I decided to continue. I will definitely be exploring this more in 2017 as I feel like I’ve just scratched the surface (pun was unintended, but I liked it so I left it in, which I guess then makes it intended).

I believe it is because of doing these three disparate types of shoots that I have such a large number of keepers this year. Any one category would produce less than Ansel’s number of twelve. To further the analogy it’s like planting three different crops and getting a good harvest on each.

How Was Your Crop?

I would love to hear how many 5 star photos you shot this past year. So share with me in the comments below or on my Facebook page.

Self Portrait #1

Thirty Self Portraits - #1

Thirty Self Portraits - A New Project

As with all projects the Thirty Self Portraits Project came about as the result of several different influences and directions.


Robert Mapplethorpe

The first influence came from watching the HBO documentary on Robert Mapplethorpe (Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures). There were several photos that he took where I really liked his lighting and decided to try to emulate them, I also really liked the very last self-portrait he did of himself.


Howard Schatz Workshop

A few weeks later I went to the Palm Springs Photo Festival (which I have written about here) and took a class with Howard Schatz. The class was all about experimenting with lighting and trying different techniques. I really enjoyed the play and learned a few tricks that I wanted to try myself. One thing I have learned about taking workshops, if I don't practice what I learned I soon forget it. So I thought taking self-portraits would be a great way to practice what I learned and to continue with the experimentation.


I Need More Head Shots

Finally I need more head shots of myself. For a lot of the gallery shows and publications I have been in over the past couple of years they are often asking for a head shot and I don't have that many. This works well with the practice I mentioned above. I need a subject and I need more shots of myself so the self-portrait project was born.


Why Thirty?

I just pulled a number out my ass and it happened to be thirty. I don't know if I will actually shoot 30, maybe I'll only do 20, or maybe I'll just keep going and shoot 100. I've put a stake in the ground, but am not absolutely committing to it. I currently have 23 ideas for self portraits, so I figure I will at least get that far.

Also this is not a self portrait a day, or a week, or a month. Every time I've tried a project like that is just kills the joy for me and makes me stop taking photos. So this is just doing it when I feel like it, some weeks I might do 3 or 4, then I might not do another for a month. No pressure, no commitment, just do it when the mood strikes me.


The One Downside

My subject in these portraits is an ugly son of a bitch.


Self Portrait # 1

Thirty Self Portraits #1















Here is the lighting setup for this image.


Thirty Self Portraits #1 lighting diagram

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

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.


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


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?


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!


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.

Stop Reading This Blog Post!

I'm serious. Stop reading this blog post and instead go out and create! Take an epic photograph! Pick up your camera and take a photo!

It has been a while since I completed my last photo shoots which were shooting a model at Joshua Tree and then a day at the Salton Sea taking photos for my A Place to Sit project. Instead of going out shooting, or planning shoots, I have instead been reading about photography, watching YouTube videos about photography, updating my photography web sites, and a hundred of other things that are about photography but are keeping me from doing what I love most, CREATING PHOTOGRAPHS!

The Illusion of Photography

It is very easy to get caught up in reading about photography, looking at others photos, sitting on the toilet watching CreativeLive videos on my iPad, and feel like I'm still a photographer, but that is an illusion. There is the illusion that I am making progress when I am being creative and coming up with shoot ideas, however without execution it is pointless. I'm procrastinating.

There are a lot of reasons why procrastination occurs. But for me is comes down to laziness and fear. Perhaps laziness is too strong a word, it is rather I take the path of least resistance.

Path of Least Resistance

It is much easier to sit at my computer and dream about photography than it is to actually do the planning necessary to do for the shot. A lot of my concepts involve building/aquiring props, recruiting a model, scouting a location, finding time on calendar to actually schedule the shoot. It's often daunting for some of the larger shoots. It is so much easier to just sit and think about the project. My solution is to stop thinking about photography and go shoot a damn photo!

So Are You Still Reading? STOP!

Pick up you camera right now and go take a photo. Execute! Photograph! Then once you are done come back and share a link to what you shot!


My Photography Fear

It has been a long time (months) since I have scheduled a photo shoot. I feel like I have been really creative lately and have written down a lot of great ideas but I just can't seem to pull the trigger. It bothered me, why wasn't I going and shooting these great concepts I was coming up with? One reason, FEAR!


I'm Afraid to Schedule a Photo Shoot

As my shoot concepts get larger and more complex, fear starts creeping in. I am constantly afraid that I am going to spend all this time planning a shoot and that I'm not going to be able to pull it off. This fear of failure is pervasive and happens at every shoot. After all of the planning and sometime weeks of preparation, the fear that I will come away with nothing useful from the shoot paralyzes me and causes me to put off the shoot.
There is a valid reason for this fear of failure. I have failed before. I have had several shoots were I got a shoot, but am unhappy with the result. The ones that come to mind are the Mermaid playing chess, and the girl dining in the river.
 Mermaid Chess
Dinner in the River 
The concept was great but the I failed the execution. I do use these as learning experiences, but the fear of creating yet another "learning experience" often prevents me from working on my next big shoot idea.
I stupidly tell myself you can't fail if you don't try. But not trying is just another type of failure.

My Solution

I don't have one. Just plow through it. It helps to realize that a lot of my paralysis is caused by fear of failure. I just have to do my best, plan as best as I can, and then go do it. I might fail, or I might come back with the best photograph I have ever taken! I won't know sitting here at my computer.
So I've just scheduled 2 large concept shoots over the next 3 weeks. I still have a lot of planning to do and recruiting of assistants and models, but they are on the calender and going to happen. I'm not going to fail from lack of trying.

How Do You Overcome Your Fear of Failure?