Thursday, November 29, 2007

Progress On Website Development

I have checked out the various suggestions made and followed a number of leads of my own, asked questions and had some replies. Dave suggested checking out Rapidweaver, a programme on the Mac for website development.

I checked out their site and was immediately attracted by the statement that it could be easily updated without republishing all the files - a flaw with many simpler publishing programmes and templates. When you have 300 images - uploading can take 24 hours!

I found a link to a couple of web videos, one their own and the other by screencastsonline.

Current status is that I have purchased this very inexpensive software, along with a couple of plugins and have been able in minutes to make the beginnings of a site, with ideas on how I'll do the whole thing, even including my blog if I want. I still can't get the uploading feature to work (wrong settings somewhere) so export it and upload it with Fetch, but it works. This weekend I'll have a real go at creating the site.

If curious, you can follow my progress here

Is this my final decision? No, I could easily decide part way through that it isn't right for me, but I think it will be alot better than staring at an empty Dreamweaver screen with little idea of what I want or how to get there.

These tutorials and reviews and so on on screencasts . They pertain to macs only but after years of being the poor relation, it doesn't hurt to be top dog for a change. There may well be pc programmes that are similar but of course are no use to me so I don't study the market.

I have discovered one problem already, other pages don't show up - they do if you roll the mouse over them but otherwise not - perhaps black on black - will have to check when I get home tonight.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Many Thanks

Just wanted to thank all of you for your assistance and suggestions around developing a new website. A number of suggestions warrant checking out further and I'll let you know of any developments.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Sheets Of Steel




or, the original:



or, maybe even this:

Web Site Development Headaches

Someone once commented that my website looked like something out of the early 90's, and of course they were right. It's a hodge podge of blogspot for this, my blog, smugmug for my images because it could move images around painlessly which my prev. flash template site couldn't do and is friendlier to a variety of screen sizes, and some very basic pages developed with an html generator Called WebDesign from Rage.

With my rheumatoid arthritis slowing me down and the book finished and winter coming, it seemed like a good time to start working on a real website. I have been checking out various template sites from clicpic to various web designers. It looked like I was looking at $2000 for a commercially developed site, a lot less for a template but without the flexibility, and that left using Dreamweaver to build it myself.

I realized this was no walk in the park, but over three years I wrote my own medical office software including clinical notes, appointments, lab, documents and so on, all together more than 150,000 lines of code, so you'd think that I could put together a website.

I picked up "Dreamweaver For Dummies" and started reading. Part way through the book I thought it might be time to get Dreamweaver and went to the Adobe site - $1000! (UPDATE: Chuck has correctly pointed out that this was he price for a package, Dreamweaver itself is $399).

I went back to my reading, thinking I'd at least have a better idea of what I am looking at whether by myself or getting it commercially. I also had a look again at Webdesign to see if it could do what I needed, all be it without the sophistication of Dreamweaver.

I was aware that with hundreds of images and wanting to avoid fixed size templates, I would really need a database of images. Turns out that means I have to learn SQL, oh and PHP or such. I'd also need XML and CSS, and don't forget Java. In the old days if I learned this many languages, someone would give me a degree for the effort.

This is starting to look downright arcane.

I'm curious to hear how others have solved this problem.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Shallow Depth Of Field


Sometimes you really don't want depth of field. In this case it is the very narrow plane of focus that makes the image, or to be more accurate, it is the blurred shapes in the background that do.

f5 at 200 mm.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

More Rings

Do You Know What Kind Of Photographer You Are?

Were I asked this kind of question, I'd say something like:

I like to find beauty and interest in the very mundane, things that are overlooked by others.

This definition applies to much of my landscape work and all of my industrial projects. Oh, sure, I'll photograph a great scene when the opportunity rises.

So, do you know what makes you light up? Don't just say landscape, what is it about the landscape that interests you - is it the light or the majesty, the small details, the off the beaten track, the downright inaccessable. When photographing people, is it their expressions or interesting faces?

Which is more important to you, composition or light?

Being able to describe what moves you in detail will help you in your search for future images.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Oh To Have One Of Those Medium Format Backs

There are times I dream of somehow being able to afford a medium format digital system so I thought I'd take a serious look at how that might work, compared to what I do now. As I have a fair amount of experience using medium format film cameras and know the parameters of medium format backs, I can do this reasonably accurately without forking out the $40,000 to really test the hypothesis.

As I use a 1Ds2, size and weight won't be huge factors, my current camera already makes a brick look slim and light. The first obvious difference is I'd probably not need to stitch normal images as a little cropping could result in a square to 2:1 image while maintaining more than 20 megapixels. Dynamic range seems to be a bit better though as it's only a couple of stops at best, I'd still have to shoot multiple images for any more dynamic range than that. Depth of field becomes a significant issue in medium format cameras - there just isn't a lot of it. This would mean that even more images would have to rely on a tilted lens (but only wide angle is available unlike my Canon 90 ts-e). I could process multiple images in helicon focus but boy, we're talking big files now - don't know how well Helicon does with those, and of course Helicon is so far only 8 bit so I'm losing some of the advantages of medium format 16 bit images.

I'd lose most of my zooms - no 17-40, no 70-200. Sure they have a moderate length zoom 55-110 but that's only 2X and neither very wide or long. No such thing as a long macro lens though. Lenses are bigger so I'd be able to carry fewer of them and not being zooms, this means I would have to hope that I can fine tune framing with my feet rather than with my lens - which isn't always possible or desireable.

The shot to shot time wouldn't really bother me given the kind of work I do. One thing to consider though is that now your back pack is worth $50,000 - that sure has an impact when you think of going in for lunch or to pick up a drink, when you fly, leave things in your hotel rooms (see Michael Reichmann's recent experience in Paris). It has significance when you hold your camera 5 feet out over a waterfall to get the best possible shot. It's already an issue - it's just that much worse with medium format.

I'd lose the rapid sophisticated auto focus I currently use - even though I focus manually I rely heavily on the camera to tell me when I'm in focus and where.

I'd have to give up long lenses. Even my 70-200 would need a 350 mm. lens and anything longer is simply not practical.

Maybe I'm just as well of where I stand.

Interestingly you could apply some of the same logic to people who shoot with a digital Rebel or XXD or DXX camera from Canon or Nikon with it's fewer pixels and smaller sensor - sometimes the crop factor means that you don't need as long lenses. The camera weighs less than half and is half the size too. Batteries and chargers are smaller.

Golf

In golf, you know exactly how you are doing. You can't blame your opponent or the ref, you know exactly how well the club pro does, and how your drinking buddy compares to you. You'd think this would drive everyone crazy and they'd all quit the game. What really happens though is that people play themselves. They attempt to better a previous score, whether it be last weeks or their all time best. This saves them the anquish of comparing themselves to others.

Not so photography - we never really know just how good we are - there are no scores, no world rankings. If our photography isn't well accepted, we can persuade ourselves it's because they don't "get" it.

This results in photographers who can a) overestimate how good they are, or b) underestimate, or c) worry because they don't know.

Let's imagine for a minute that somehow photography became more like golf and the club standings were posted on the bulletin board and everyone knew exactly where they stood as well as everyone else.

You'd look to the scoreboard and see that you rank 37 on the club standings and that your score compared to Michael Kenna is 57% of his.

Doesn't that help a lot?

Can you imagine what you'd do with this information. Your buddy is ranked 35th and you really want to beat him by next Spring. You are bound and determined to catch up and you plan how you are going to do this - your clouds are going to be more dramatic, your images will have more snap, your sports pictures more pain.

Really, how the hell is this going to improve your photography? I can't see it doing anything good for your creativity. Perhaps you could do the equivalent of going to the driving range or working on your swing, but in the end your photographs merely represent how good you are at seeing and how creative you are about working on images and coming up with interesting ideas.

In the end, it's just as well photography isn't like golf and we can't be ranked. Sure that generates misapprehensions about our abilities and creates doubts, but it doesn't interfere with the core processes of being a photographer, seeing and creating.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Nest Of Pipes

Camera Design

Someone sent me a joke the other day - one of those, "how come" type - one line of which was "how come they put a man on the moon before they put wheels on luggage?"

Kind'a makes you think about some of the other obvious in hind sight inventions which could have been making our lives easier for years.

Sometimes the invention is already out there, its just that manufacturers don't think the feature is sexy enough to sell well.

For example:

How long has Michael Reichmann been begging for a mirror lockup button on Canon cameras? Years - to no avail.

How come consumer cameras costing 1/10 at much have tilting LCD's but dSLR's don't - I can tell you I'd kill to have one on my $8,000 1DsII and that's problably going to prevent me from upgrading to the III, in the hope that within a couple of years they will add that. I know I could add that clip on viewfinder LCD screen that tilts - but I'd want to see one before buying one.

As I mentioned around fragile electronic cable releases, the consumer cameras have infrared remotes. Radio remote built in would be even better.

It took till the Canon G9 to have an ISO dial on the camera, how come I don't have one on my camera? The 1Ds3 finally has the ISO in the viewfinder, that should have been there all along.

How come I can't have an exposure mode that lets me set the maximum number of pixels which can go pure white and be ignored (the specular highlights) while setting the exposure to the rest of the image just approches pure white at most - Michael Reichmann's expose to the right automated. What if there were a way for the camera to automatically display images exposed this way on the LCD screen as not being too light?

Instead of having cameras with a depth of field mode, what about focussing on the near then the far and the camera tells me what f stop is needed - then I can decide to accept or not.

Why can't anti aliasing filters be hinged so they can swing out of the way - would also make the camera great for infrared?

We have sensors that respond to pressure, point north, detect light, even smell for us - why can't someone invent a sensor which responds to the frequency and wavelength of the light - without coloured filters and Bayer algorithms. Now wouldn't that be cool.

What if instead of shooting a whole pile of images and importing them to your computer to be blended in Helicon focus, the camera did it in a single step, continuously adjusting the focus - have processors in cameras become powerful enough to do something like this? You'd think that any camera that can shoot 6.5 frames a second with 10 MP should be able to do so.

Photo acute tries to give higher resolution by blending multiple shots. What about having the sensor move half a pixel left then half a pixel right, half a pixel up and half down all within one second, result to be blended in-camera.

How about the same thing for low noise shadows or for HDR.

Does anyone else wonder what it would be like to have an IS lens combined with an IS sensor (a la pentax and sony)?. They would work together to provide the absolute best stabilization.

When is Epson going to catch on that having both gloss and matte inks in the printer at the same time is not a luxury, it's essential? And how come the others are leaps ahead in non clogging and in speed of printing?

My Berlebach tripod had a levelling device built into the tripod top which allowed the centre column to be angled about 15 degrees each way for considerable versatility while still being able to raise and lower the centre column. The methods devised by Manfrotto in their lates tripods are crude in comparison.

Can you think of the equivalent of luggage wheels?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Sequence In Editing Image

I was asked to provide the steps in creating the black and white rings picture. I don't have the original steps but here is a quick and dirty approximation of what I went through.

First we have the original output from Helicon Focus, a blend of several images for depth of field, before any manipulation or cropping or sharpening - the images go straight from raw to Helicon.



Now I crop the image - in this case not very carefully.



Next I used my threshold trick to check for blown highlights and stick a curves layer under it and move the white point to the left until the image is just starting to reach white. I generally allow several small areas of the image to reach pure white, then paint into the curves mask to take them back to not quite being blocked.

The threshold trick? - I create a threshold 250 layer as an action, which I apply on top of anything. It shows any pixels which have reached 250 and are at risk of being blown out. Much more accurate than looking at the histogram that Photoshop provides - as far as I'm concerned - invaluable.



Next I convert to black. Previous experience has shown that the green filter in the Photoshop black and white conversion provides the best contrast and detail for rust.



Next is some fine tuning of the cropping and a little cloning in the upper left corner to extend the ring right into the corner and while I'm at it removing a few marks on the rings that I don't like.



Now comes the actual editing of the black and white image. Doing it quick and dirty I was able to do it with two curves adjustments - one to increase contrast and another to darken. I'm sure in the original I used a lot more curves adjustments as I spent more time getting the tones right throughout the image, but I've been able to approximate the results before that took a couple of hours, this time in 10 minutes.






and the effect is:



The original image is simply more of same gradually fine tuning the image but you get the idea.

Working The Scene

I have written in the past about the steps taken in approaching subject matter and working the scene. Given though that this probably accounts for more poor pictures and or frustration, and each scene being different, I thought I would have another go.

Saturday, after finishing at Independent Machinery, I headed home. I noticed stacks of old pipe that looked interesting and did a U turn and headed back. I'd seen the pipe from a bridge so I found a parking spot and hoofed it up the bridge till I was overlooking the pipe in the distance. With my 70-200 full out, I wasn't nearly close enough. I didn't think the 300 would help that much and decided to see if I could get inside the yard which had signs of activity.

I pulled into the yard, found the office closed and started asking who was boss for the day, eventually getting permission from someone to go ahead, but to watch out for nails and such. Actually it's a pretty good idea to consider wearing both safety shoes and hard hat in some of these locations. Sometimes I do. Pieces of steel sometimes stick out at eye level.

Anyway, I wandered round to the piles of pipe and they didn't look nearly as interesting as I'd seen from the road, and as often happens with piles of things, there was no logical borders to any image and certainly no centre of interest. None of the pipes was sufficiently exciting to "make" an image.

I started looking round. A jumbled pile of short pipe cutoffs behind me looked a lot more interesting. There were pipes within pipes within pipes, going from 6 foot diameter down to 1 foot. That seemed promising.

I spent the first half of my time trying to make something out of these pipes. Depth of field was going to be a problem, else I could just accept that only one plane was going to be sharp. I tried it both ways, stopping down for some, wider for others (nothing worse than being just a little out of focus). I mostly though, did series for blending with Helicon Focus.

Background was a problem as right behind the pipe was a chain link fence. I could either live with the fence in the background of the pictures (but those posts every 10 feet really bothered me) or I could crop off the top of the pipe which didn't please me too much either. I did what I could from ground level then decided to climb on a pile of lumber nearby for a look slightly downwards. That proved a lot better though the pile was a bit unstable, resulting in difficulty holding the camera steady on the tripod while I was on the wood, and also creating some risk the wood could fall on me - the thought of four feet high pile of 2X10's landing on my legs didn't appeal so I was especially careful and approached the pile from the better stacked other side.

In the end I was able to place the tripod legs on the boards I wasn't standing on, and by not moving, was able to get the shots. Most of the pipes were either beige or rust coloured but there was a single large pipe in light green - I had doubts that it would work in colour but of course in black and white I could filter it to just about any tone I wanted.

Even on top of the lumber, the fence was still an issue and I had to find compositions which weren't compromised by the feeling that there should have been more on top of the image - a problem that happens when you have to crop out something and risk sacrificing something else.

In the end I didn't feel that any of the pipe images was going to be a real winner so moved on. Fortunately not far away was a pile of augur bits from drilling machines (presumably meant to drill holes big enough for some of these large pipe sections. The largest was more than two feet across, the smallest about one. They had interesting carbide tips and had interesting patterns of scoring and rust and mud still attached.

My first shot was two of these large augur bits facing each other with others lined up in the background. Unfortunately there were some other shapes on the left which might be distracting in the image - they were - that idea didn't pan out. Frankkly if you think something might be a problem in the image, it almost certainly is, and unless you can crop it out, tone it down or clone it away, you may just have to walk away.

I tried various compositions with these interesting twisty shapes with teeth. In the end some were interesting but none were particularly creative or strong. The best image came from a tightly cropped image of a single augur bit, resulting in some great tones and lovely diagonal lines. I posted that one on the weekend.

In the end, the shots were ok but hardly wonderful. Fact is, most scenes are like that. Now the shoot before at Independent Machinery has been amazing. This was trip # 8 and yet again, I have been lucky. I had some decent shots of Rosco arc welding, sparks flying, subject lit by the arc light. OK, but hardly great. I felt awkward asking Rosco, who was extremely busy, to interrupt his work to head off for a shoot so I did pose him at the table at which he was welding and got an ok image, though the cluttered background is illustrative rather than artistic. Arnold Newman I'm not.

Later, he was saying goodbye to his girlfriend and was standing talking for a minute so I was able to take a few shots, gradually zooming in fairly tight on his face. I could see immediately that the lighting was perfect and the only question would be technical - I was using a low shutter speed, IS, ei 400 and my 70-200 at f4. The image which is tightest is the best and shows considerable movement in his mouth, slight movement in his eyes yet is sharp enough to make a beautiful print. The background of that portrait is quite light so I did considerable layer work to darken it. The version I posted still shows a little edge effect where I didn't blend the dodged background with the shirt perfectly but that has been subsequently fixed for my prints. The face itself required very little work, slight highight dodging on the darker part of the beard, a little extra sharpening of just the eyes themselves and I did remove a couple of dark spots on the face and tone down a few others for a more pleasing result.

And that was my day.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Claws Out

Moving On






The last two images are actually from a yard down the road from Independent Machinery. I'd seen some interesting large used pipe anything from 2 - 4 feet in diamter and stacked up. In the end that didn't interest me as much as some short sections of large tubing nearby, as well as a series of huge augurs.

I'm particularly pleased with the portrait of Rosco, given it's first ever attempt at serious portrait making. I'd claim the beautiful lighting but it just happened to be there. At least I can take credit for recognizing it and quickly swinging my camera round to capture it. I hope he's pleased.

In A Different Vein


Still at Independent Machinery, only I thought it was time to recognize the workers. Meet Rosco.

Surface Properties Of Paper

I could be completely wrong, but here's a theory. It's actually the presence of spurious reflections that creates the sense of three dimensionality of glossy paper.

Let me explain.

I have been working with the new Harman FBAL gloss paper. When you first look at prints they are wonderful, truly the closest to the old glossy dried matte we have seen. After a while though, you notice that the paper is so glossy (on my iPF 5000 anyway) that it's actually a little challenging to find a position in which to hold the paper without creating any reflections. This isn't a problem with the more pebbly papers like Silver Rag, Hahnemuhle Pearl, Canon Semi Gloss and so on.

I then noticed that if I hold the image perfectly still in my hand, other than deeper blacks, the image doesn't look significantly different from my matte paper images. Should I move my head slightly or move the paper even a small amount, the three dimensional look comes back to the image. I actually think that it's the reflections off the surface causing variation in the brightness in the tones in local areas which is creating that effect.

Of course, I'm talking subtle here - I'm assuming you have already placed the image in a position which minimizes reflections so that those remaining are barely visible - eg. faint reflections off your clothing as you hold the print - not glaring reflections of the lighting. I'm also talking the tiny movements which are a normal part of holding the print up to the right position, not a deliberate rocking back and forth.

Perhaps I'm completely off target here but see what you think. If I'm right, it has implications for the differences between hand held and rigid dry mounted prints, between in the hand and on the wall, and between bare and behind glass images.

Thoughts?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Rings In Black And White


So here's what I ended up doing - I went back and used the green filter in the black and white conversion of Photoshop CS 3 - it's been my experience that this is the best result when converting rust to black and white. I did tone it down a bit by using a second black and white conversion above it with no filter, then using the opacity slider for the green filtered layer to tone down the green filtering a bit. I more or less did the things I planned in the previous discussion, though found that if I toned down the lower left corner it didn't look right, so I lightened the upper right a little and undid the effect in the bottom left. In total there were about 10 adjustment layers after the black and white conversion, applying various curves locally.

Colour Vs. Black And White



This pair of images provides a nice start for a discussion of black and white vs. colour. In the image above we have some lovely rust, ranging in colour from yellow to brown through a variety of oranges. This is contrasted against the grays of the coated steel, with just a hint of blue in it.

I think the image works nicely in colour.

The image below, on the other hand, has thrown away all that lovely colour - but what do we gain? Well, suddenly the forms of the rings become more important, the fact that one ring is brighter than another is interesting. The image is of course less real, less a picture of rusty steel rings and more an abstract of fascinating shapes. The spaces between rings become as important as the rings themselves, making odd curving and pointed shapes.

I have done nothing to the black and white image except to add a little more highlight overall. The image now needs some local work - I don't like the dark upper right corner, it needs a darker lower left to balance it - whether that will work remains to be seen, but it needs to be tried.

There are dark curved long narrow triangles in the upper left and middle right. One is surface coated steel, the other the back of one of the rusty rings, but in black and white that doesn't matter - I think I'll try toning both down darker so their shapes are more obvious and complementary to each other.

I might add some "burning in" to the main rings so they look a bit more round - as it stands they don't vary dramatically in brightness from one side to the other of each ring.

The two top rings are not only lined up together (where everything else is lying higgeldy pigelty (sp.?) but they are the same tonality. I think I'll try making one darker and the other lighter so there is more separation.

That's all the changes I can think of for now, but these might not work and I could go off in a completely different direction or having made these changes, it may show me more changes that I could make to strengthen the image.

There's a real risk I'll go over the top and have to back up, or possibly even start all over again.

You might gather that I find this working on images to be a significant part of my creativity and wouldn't miss it for the world. Not only do I like showing you something you might not have noticed (too small, too cluttered, too ordinary) but even more I like the challenge of bringing an image to it's full potential. Notice that no where in these two efforts does it say anything about whether the image shold be black and white or colour. Guess perhaps that's why it isn't as important to me to do only one or the other. Eliminating colour is simply a tool for me on the way to creating the strongest possible image. Sometimes I fail, other times...

Whether you like either or both of these images isn't important here, but the process is and you might want to contemplate how it relates to your own work.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Art For The Masses, Or Not?

Ever wondered about some of the things we struggle to make right in our images - the subtle print qualities that few can appreciate, the nuances of composition that go over the heads of most of our audience? What if only the arts educated can appreciate our work? Fortunately we can look to the other arts to help us put things into perspective.

There are many authors I don't appreciate yet my wife does - the difference? She was interested in writing to start with, did well in that area of her schooling and went on to get a masters degree in theatre history so I'd guess we'd call her "arts educated" when it comes to the written word.

Now, if a book is appreciated by someone like my wife, but someone like me gets bored with it after the first two pages, does that make it any the less great literature. If that were so, much of what society considers great literature would not be valued (since the uneducated masses, like myself, don't appreciate it).

There are brilliant composers who put layers of sophistication into their music that most of us are completely unaware of and have little to do with whether they wrote a "good tune". Some of those composers managed to do both write clever sophisticated music with depths for those who could appreciate it, while also writing for the masses, music which was a "good tune" and a lot more. Sometimes this can happen in the same piece of music - eg. Bach. Other composers though never wrote a catchy tune in their lives yet are revered by those in the know.

Now, I'm being a bit facetious with the "good tune" comment because there's music that can bring tears to many people and certainly doesn't require an arts education to be appreciated.

From my experience selling at the farmers market, there are a goodly number of young and old people who appreciate the finer points of photography, who "get" what I'm trying to do with my images. Sure, there are lots who simply want a pretty picture for the wall, but there are enough with a discriminating eye to make my time there rewarding.

Nowadays, the vast majority of people who see my work are other photographers, and with the publication of my book, that's only going be even more so. Photographers as a group may not be arts educated, but can in general appreciate the work that went into a good print.

You'd think that the obvious answer is "we want it all", we want the highbrows and the peons, the art educated and the huddled mases to appreciate our work. It may not be realistic to want this though.

For example, my often quoted Pepper Number 30 by Edward Weston is almost universally liked by photographers, but lots of the public just don't get it - all they can see is a pepper, and not even a particularly good specimen either. By the same token, many photographers actively dislike postcardy scenes, yet they certainly sell well. After all, for everone who can appreciate cubism, there are 1000 buying velvet paintings.

So, universal appeal is unrealistic. Miles Davis may be a genius, but I don't like jazz. How can anyone criticize country and western with lines like "get your tongue out of my mouth honey, I'm kissing you goodby" and "all my exes, live in Texas".

If you are prepared to agree that universal appeal isn't either possible or practical, who then should we aim to interest? I'm guessing that we shouldn't all aim at the same market for no more sophisicated reason than it would make for a very crowded market, better you aim to sell to someone other than the fellow I'm working on.

I suspect that attempting to adjust one's photography to the market we wish to impress is problematic. Whether that market is people with lots of money or gallery owners or curators or editors, our efforts are best spent fine tuning the work that means the most to us, and it happens to have a limited market or following, well so be it. Therein lies the difference between a professional photographer and an artist - the former suits his work to his client. While he may use various artistic techniques, it is always with a goal in mind that someone else set. The artist photographer is hopefully making images for themselves first.

There are of course fine art photographers who do in fact cater to their market, which would seem to make them professionals but not artists - a debatable point but none the less relevant - they aren't creating from inner sight, a need to create or because they have something to say. Sure they use the same compositional and editing skills as an artist photographer and it's even possible some of the images might look the same, but you have to wonder.

So, if we feel strongly about commercial art vs. fine art, should we in fact have any particular audience for our work, or do we simply "do it" and hope someone appreciates it?

For myself, I found that working at the farmers market, I started to think of "this would sell well" when I was out shooting. Since I stopped working at the market, those thoughts haven't popped up once - the images made are for me, because I need to. If they happen to appeal to you or someone else well that's nice. I've never once thought - gee, this would look good in the blog, and hope I don't ever start thinking that way. I don't like that I was thinking this way after being at the market some time. The realities of running a business (and that's what it was, even if on a small scale) invariably start creeping into the photographing end of things.

If I really wanted to prostitute myself, I'd shoot sunsets and grain elevators, but have no interest in doing so. There are others who genuinely are interested in the fast disappearing wooden grain elevators and attack the photographing of them with energy and creativity. To do so though just because it sells well...

Does this mean that there is such a thing as a photographer's photographer - someone who's work is generally most appreciated by people who know what's involved - who are into the process as much as the result? Might this explain the obcession in some magazines with antique or alternative processes - because the editor appreciates the effort involved in creating the image?

I've never bought into "it has to be difficult to be good" but I suppose if I did, I'd be shooting on film and printing on platinum, even though I happen to think that inkjet looks better than platinum.

First and foremost we photographers are ordinary people - we watch the Simpsons, belch after a good meal (if we can get away with it) and fart as much as anyone. My point here is that before being art literate, we are first a member of the masses, attracted to images with emotional appeal or unusual or interesting - that is, we enjoy a good tune. After that, we can also appreciate the nuances of fine photographs. Some images are intellectually interesting (art educated) while others may be more like the good tune.

When it comes to planning images, I suspect that none of this is relevant, we simply see what interests us and do with it what we can. If we put into the image things that most can't see, well we can, and some other photographers can, and perhaps a part of the public can. We can't predict ahead of time which things are important to any one person, so we do our best and say "this is me" rather than "I thought you'd like this".

Monday, November 12, 2007

More Rust


Stairs

Rusty Rings


Having finished with the back alleys, I wandered down to Independent Machinery and wasn't too surprised to find them open on what's a holiday in many places. They were spray painting indoors so I spent my time outside. Since my last visit, everything had been moved and changed and I found myself with a whole new set of objects to photograph. I needed to move some steel to clean up the background for these rings and blend for depth of field but otherwise it wasn't difficult.

This version is toned down a bit - the orange of the rust is actually quite dayglow yellow/orange but I wanted the softer look. I'm not sure that I'll keep it that way, but I'll get to know the image for a while first.

Back Alleys



I had one particular shot in mind but after capturing that, I wandered along the back alleys in the Inglewood district this afternoon.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Stitching Update

It's been some time since I have written about stitching, but despite owning a 1Ds2, I continue to stitch on a regular basis. There seems to be a lot of talk of needing shift lenses to stitch and nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, camera rotation stitching works just as well as shift image stitching. Sure there's more processing but don't forget that in rotating the camera, you never have to approach the edge of the image circle. As far as ease of processing, I continue to use PTGui.

I have used Photoshop to do some stitching but have not found it as reliable as PTGui - there's nothing worse than spending several hours working on an image only to find that there's a discontinuity in the stitch that you hadn't noticed, and now it's back to the drawing board. I like the fact that PTGui gives me feedback on the success of my efforts - a good stitch, or not so good, or poor, and I can check the alignment of the control spots (matching pairs of points in adjoining images). Most of the time I get a perfect stitch first time out, but with close work and really wide angle work, finding that nodal point becomes more critical and so sometimes the alignment isn't perfect. Photoshop just goes ahead and does the best it can, PTGui warns me that there are problems and even shows me where they are located.

As I never do more than a single row stitch, taking the stitching images is no great chore, using my RRS nodal point slider and a levelling head under the ball head so it rotates horizontally. I normally just eyeball the lens, knowing ahead of time roughly where in the lens the nodal point is and if the camera is aiming up or down (so the ball head leans forward or back), I adjust the slider accordingly so that the nodal point is vertically over the centre of the ball, not the actual clamp.

When stitching with the camera aimed really down or up, one does need to take into consideration that at either end of the image, you have angled edges to the stitched image. Since you have to crop this to a rectangle (assuming you are a traditionalist), you need to include a bit more to the left and right to allow for this cropping. You'd have to do the same if you shot a single image aimed up or down if you later plan to correct vertical perspective in photoshop since filter/distort/lens correction will also give you angled sides when you dial in the change in perspective.

The only limitations in stitching for me are water, where waves can be tricky to blend - especially organized waves like the ocean, or where I need to blend images for depth of field or for increased dynamic range, in which case I usually won't stitch, though occasionally it's worth the effort.

As a landscapist, I find there really aren't any medium and far distance images in which it isn't worth the effort to stitch.

Radio Remote Release - First Use

Boy, the radio release got a good workout today, and performed well. My first image was with the 17 mm. in the window and that required me to get out of the way - crouching in front of the tripod was not an option. The radio release was ideal. I could have used the self timer so it was hardy essential, but it did let me wait till the dresses stopped swaying after I left the window before bringing up the mirror, then firing off the shot when ready. I simply clipped the release to my jacket, the receiver on the hot shoe, and used it all morning - no wrapped cords, no fumbling for the end of the cord, no stepping on it or jambing it in the head. I think I'm going to like this - and if it can last anything more than twice as long as the attached cords, then it won't have cost me any more either.

Update On Harman FBAL Gloss

I've been using this paper for a few weeks now and here's my latest thoughts on this paper.

Quickly glancing at images, the paper looks fantastic, with blacks deep enough to dive into and smooth tone gradients and subtle highlights. It doesn't require output sharpening and the images really do look like they were made in a wet darkroom, from 4X5 (all be it in 8.5X11 prints). On further inspection, the gloss might be just a tad too shiny - it's a little tricky finding a position to hold it without some reflections. For hand holding prints, this isn't really a problem - for mounting on the wall, well it might be - haven't done that yet so it's pure supposition. On my iPF5000 and selecting a custom warm tone in the monochrome printing - the results are absolutely lovely - warmth without a hint of pink or green and no signs of metamerism.

I can certainly see using this paper for portfolio presentations as it really does show off the images to their absolute best. Today I found that Booksmartstudio has just put up an ICC profile for the paper and the iPF 5000 printer and I was able to use Paypal to fork over $4 for the profile - a bargain! I haven't used it enough yet to know just how accurate it is, so far so good.

Production quality is superb - the best of any of the 'glossy' papers I have tried so far - not a marred sheet or dinged corner yet.

Pure whites do have slightly less gloss than the rest of the image - but this is slight and frankly not a big issue - I am happy to sell prints on this paper.

Well, That's Different



I had thought to start a series of images shot in Inglewood, an older, artsy, crafty neighbourhood in Calgary. One of my patients owns a store there and it seemed a place to start. I expected old and antique and sort of general store but in fact she owns a clothing store and I ended up shooting her window for her as well as interiors and her staff dressed in some of the outfits, hardly what I am experienced in.

I made a couple of screwups - first, I didn't clean the lens on my 17-40 and the number of flare spots from all the track lighting - well, fixing that kept me busy this afternoon. I don't even own a flash so fill flash is a foreign language - but if I'm to do this again, I might just have to learn. I solved her problem with photographing her window display (too many reflections through the glass) by parking the tripod right in the corner of the window, leveling the head, then shooting three images with at 17 mm. for later stitching.

I plain forgot to use the nodal point rotator so alignment of the images was problematic - fortunately fixable in Photoshop.

I don't have model releases so won't post any of the people shots but above are a couple of shots from the store itself.

I actually had a lot of fun doing it. It's interesting to be on the spot for coming up with some creative ideas.

If I'm to ever do this again, I'm going to have to read up on handling models - because I'm not much above the "Say Cheese!" level - never had to direct a rock or a piece of steel.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Distillery



The story is that a year ago I asked my patient, environmental engineer for the distillery, if I might be able to photograph in the plant. He checked with the powers that be and I made a couple of trips to the plant, had interesting tours of the making of grain whiskey and spent hours photographing.







From Distillery




Printing Revolution

The latest issue of Lenswork arrived in the mail today, my day off, so with a cup of tea, I leisurely flipped through the magazine, noting something about Revolution in the lead editorial. Having gone through the images informally, and it's a great collection this issue, I went back to the lead editorial and started to read about Brooks' thoughts on the effects of improved commercial printing on the value and role of the original silver gelatin print.

I strongly encourage you to read this editorial as I think it has profound implications for the future, the way we display our work and even what is going to happen to the whole issue of selling photography.

I'd like to take off on where Brooks leaves, which is to the effect that he has tested mechanical reproduction and it can be every bit as good as original prints and in some ways better and he suspects this is going to radically change photography in ways we can't yet predict.

First, home inkjet printing is advancing every bit as fast as commercial printing, so that with new papers and gloss pigment inks from the latest inkjet printers, black density and resolution and tonality are giving silver prints more than a good run for their money. I have had several excellent wet darkroom printers of reputation comment that they have been able to make better looking prints via Photoshop and inkjet printers than they had ever been able to make in the wet darkroom. This is especially true for difficult negatives, but is becoming true even of good negatives.

That home inkjet printing is moving ahead as quickly as commercial printing is just as well since 99% of photographers will never see their work in large commercial runs, whether for Lenswork or a book, even though they may be quite talented.

Second, original fine art prints require framing. This means that no matter what the cost of the print, there's going to be another $200 or more for framing on top. This, of course, presupposes that a) you want the image on your wall, and b) you have some wall space left, and c) it's an image you want to see every day for the duration of it's hanging. It's possible to rotate your artwork, but frankly, storing the unhung but framed works of art is a pain in the deriere, taking up lots of space and requiring very careful handling and padding.

In truth, there are a lot of wonderful images which are best appreciated when viewed occasionally. In fact, I might go further and say that I suspect the vast majority of photographs are best appreciated when seen occasionally - almost like making a new discovery every time a book is opened.

I happen to be one of those people who thoroughly enjoy seeing movies several times over, but there's a limit to how often even I want to see a movie over a short period of time, before the movie gets tucked away for months, or even years before being resurrected and enjoyed "for the first time" all over again. Why should we assume that an image needs to be seen every single day? Perhaps there's at least a grain of truth in the old "familiarity breeds contempt", or at least, if not contempt, at least a bit of ho hum.

I can store thousands of photographs in a single bookcase. I can pick a book off the shelf, sit in a comfortable chair, cup of tea at my side and look through the images at leisure. I can purchase 40 or more images for $100 or less, making the cost of each image at most $2.50. At that price, not only can I afford a lot more images, I can afford to take chances, push the boundaries, explore styles of photography I don't yet understand or appreciate. I can painlessly test the waters of new to me photographers. I can accept the recommendations of a critic or editor without breaking the bank.

Frankly, when you think about it, the concept of purchasing an image, framing it behind glass and hanging it on a wall seems downright silly.

What does this have to do with those 99% of serious photographers who won't produce a book? Well, for a start, if the images they sell are of modest size, say 8.5X11, then perhaps I can purchase a print for a modest sum (say $25+shipping), and simply add the print to a portfolio box when it arrives. The portfolio box costs me $25 (vs. $200 for framing) and holds anything from 20 to 50 prints. It can sit in my lap, next to my cup of tea, and I can leisurely flip through the inkjet prints I have collected.

To be fair, that makes those prints 10X the cost of the book prints, but consider that I was able to individually select the ones I wanted, so one could make the argument that they are worth considerably more to me - a reasonable tradeoff, and frankly, the only way that I'm going to be able to access the work of less popular (but not necessarily less talented photographers).

So, a story. After I was published in Lenswork with my "city forms" series (Lenswork 57), I was asked to trade prints with a well known New York professional photographer - a very nice boost to the ego). I decided subsequently to see if I could arrange a swop with another photographer who had been in Lenswork. To be fair, his reputation far outstripped mine, his skill too, but none the less, I felt that our common grounds of being in Lenswork meant I could at least ask.

He wrote back nicely declining to swap prints, pointing out that he had no way to deal with all of the prints he received and so no longer participated in swaps. He did however offer to send me a print free, if I would pay the shipping. Given his reputation, this was a most generous offer. By this time I felt guilty and arranged a compromise, I paid for one print that was my favorite, while getting a second print free. So, in time the prints arrived. I wasn't particularly flush with cash (having made large prints for a show) and so only one of the images ever got framed, the other sits in the original shipping box. Some day I'll get round to framing the other, but you see my point, it's always a thought to have to commit that much money to frame each and every print you obtain.

Another time I recommended on my blog, the work of Cole Thompson and he was grateful for me doing so and very generously sent me a print. It arrived in a huge box, superbly and professionally packed, but frankly was large enough, that it too remains in it's box, even though it's a very nice photograph. Had he sent me an 8.5X11, I could have it in a portfolio box, and I could look at it any time I want.

I could, of course, simply take his print and pin it to the wall, and toss it when I'm tired of it - but that's sacrilege and I just can't make myself do it, even though it does make sense and his work would be better appreciated by me than it is now, sitting in it's protective box, taking up room.

I think I might just invest in a really large portfolio box and store received images that way, but large prints are hard to handle and flip through and risk being damaged in the handling, where small prints are stiff enough not to kink or need fingers on the surface when being "flipped through".

I dearly hope that some day I will have my work in a fine art book so that many can afford my work and see it. In the mean time, I think I'm onto something with this portfolio box of small prints idea.

I wish the best of luck to photographers who continue to price their inkjet prints at $500 each, or more, but I think the writing's on the wall, guys, I don't see you doing it for much longer.

I think Brooks is right, there's a revolution and we can't predict how things are going to change, but change they will.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Cable Releases In An Electronic Era

Of course, my 1Ds2 can't accept an ordinary inexpensive mechanical (read reliable) cable release. No, it has to use a Canon made, expensive (prob. 8 X the price of a mechanical cable release) which is highly unreliable and so far seems to have a lifespan of six to nine months shooting (or considerably less). The other day when my third such release failed, I had to switch to my even more expensive release with the intervalometer (purchased before a trip when they were out of ordinary ones). OF course it's so long it falls on the ground and gets dirty, the lcd screen on the release gets stood on and scratched, and the whole damn thing gets wrapped round the tripod and head and camera in ways you wouldn't think possible.

Anyway, this time when I went to pick up a replacement, I was offered a third party release for significantly less, OR, I could purchase a radio release for twice as much. I splurged for the radio release on the grounds that I'd not have to deal with long cords and the pull on the plug (which is I suspect the area of difficulty for the normal ones). I'll let you know how it works out. So far the first obvious thing is that since it sits on the hot shoe, it has to come off when the camera goes in the bag, but I think that will be manageable. I'll clip the actual release to my clothes so it doesn't get lost (it comes with a clip and a hokey chain which I immediately replaced with a better one I had lying around.

Both the receiver and remote are small, the plug looks solid, but time will tell.

The release is made by RFN and certainly works in tests and can even handle B shutter speeds and partial presses for focusing. Here's hoping.

Contradictions and Conundrums

The vast majority of fine art photography doesn't have a huge emotional impact. This includes the vast majority of landscape photography, much of architectural work and frankly even a fair amount of portrait or figure work. Oh sure, the dark sky may be a bit threatening, the expression wistful, but that hardly equates with the emotion of "Migrant Farm Worker" by Dorothea Lange or lots of photojournalism. Certainly the most that can be said in terms of emotion about the typical rocks and roots pictures is well composed, very pretty, nice capture, and so on - comments you see all the time on some of the photo posting sites. What the hell is a "nice capture". Sounds like you got lucky, hardly a compliment.

So, if there are great photographs which don't engender really strong emotions, how is it that they are great, especially in comparison to all the other well exposed, skillfully edited and printed and perfectly composed images out there, created by many famous photographers and lots of skilled amateurs?

I suspect that a considerable number of these images either leave you guessing about some aspect - the where or the scale or how or even why, or they offer contradictions within a single image. That contradiction could be as simple as sharp vs. rounded, or old vs. new. It could be tranquil vs. stormy, smooth vs. rough.

Recently Craig Tanner of Radiant Vista posted a portrait on his diary which expresses this perfectly, the presumably blind man is dresssed in real style (that he can't see), the whole image is done in shades of light gray and blue, except for the bright yellow box of M&M's. You are left wondering just what he's doing with them - he could be carrying them home but the box is open - did he get hungry? Is he standing on the street corner at halloween handing them out. Craig offers no explanation for the image and I really want one, yet realize that once I know the explanation, I won't have the opportunity to wonder about the story, or to make up my own story for the image.

The work of Elliot Erwitt epitomizes the contradiction, puzzle, visual pun style of photography - the short dog with the tall, the bull dog sitting on the stairs, only he's on the lap of his owner whose head is behind the dog.

To some degree, the same thing is true of many of the photographs of Cartier Bresson - in his case it's the exquisitely timed capture of a figure placed in the scene or an expression or a grouping - in this case it's less of a conundrum and more of "how the heck did he manage to line everything and everyone up so perfectly?".

Perhaps it's time to start thinking about your next location in terms of contrasts, contradictions, mysteries and puzzles.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Night Time Can Be Great Time


I've never done a lot of night time photography but truth is, with digital it's a whole lot more satisfying than in the old film days for a couple of reasons.

1) Lack of reciprocity failure means that calculated exposures don't have to be anything from double to 10 times longer than predicted - what you measure is what you get.
2) Modern light meters are pretty sensitive and can often estimate the correct exposure at night.
3) the feedback of the LCD is invaluable.
4) Though digital doesn't have the dynamic range of black and white film - multiple exposures can be blended and short exposures to capture blown highlights are short and therefore painless to take.

In the case of this image, it was shot with a long lens and so depth of field was a problem. I used a blended series of exposures run through Helicon Focus to get decent depth of field. One could argue that flare from the lights is problematic, but in fact in this case it suits the image very nicely and I was happy to have it.

Colour was a bit tricky as these were sodium vapour lights, very orange, but with a bit of balancing and toning down the colour, I'm pleased with the results.

I think I'll give night time photography a bit more workout.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Finer Points Of Seeing

There's a whole chapter in my book on "seeing" with tools and exercises, but after yesterday's shoot I thought I'd try to better describe what one is doing when seeing.

For many novice photographers, the definition of seeing is probably "looking for something pretty".

At its simplest level, a photograph consists of shapes and tones. Shapes are determined by the real world characteristics of the subject matter and by the position from which it is photographed. Unless you are going to use Photoshop to distort, that's it, there is no other way to change the shape.

Tonality is a bit more flexible in that exposure and focus can affect the tonality, as well as lighting (including bouncing a little light off a white sweatshirt to fill a deeply shadowed rock. it is even more dramatically affected by printing manipulation, whether in the wet darkroom or in Photoshop. If you have been following Bruce Barnbaum's series of articles on printing in Photo Techniques magazine, you will be aware of the degree to which even a traditional image can be manipulated. With more precise and greater control as well as things like local contrast adjustment the power of digital image editing is even greater.

So, we have shapes and we have tones and the former is fixed when we plant our feet, the latter can be substantially changed once we are home with the image.

Therefore:

The process of seeing is simply a matter of looking for shapes which have potential, and tonalities which with adjustment as needed can provide suitable tones. In the past I might have argued that photographing in bright sun might have been pushing it, but Uwe Steinmuller on Outback Photo has been merrily doing so, hand held no less, with his HDR techniques, so even there... Still, the closer the tonalities are to something which will print well the greater the chance of a good print, and the less work you will have to do to get there.

Correct Order

So, should one be on the lookout for interesting shapes, or surfaces which photograph well? From experience I can tell you that it works in either direction. I might see some great metal shapes sitting on a shelf, and though they tonalities are boring, I know that with work and can deal with that (see prev. blog entries on editing including one on adding roundness and depth with image editing). On the other hand, water provides great tonalities and usually the shape comes second.

Shapes

A month or so ago the Lee Valley Woodworking Catalogue came in the mail and I was very impressed with the cover photograph. Some photographer or designer had shown a lot of ingenuity in photographing tools on black rectangular blocks, stacked up in a staggered hill, both sideways and backwards, creating a series of small flat areas on which to sit the tools. The blocks were all painted a textured black which the photographer had managed to capture perfectly. The tools were metal and wood, many of them hinged rulers forming a series of L shapes on the ledges. The whole thing was photographed from above and to the right so that all the rectangular blocks formed parallelograms and the L shaped rulers all matched. A sign indicating 30th anniversary was in a colour which matched the aged wood of the tools s there were really only three colours in the entire image, aged steel, black and an orangish yellow wood. Obviously it impressed me, after all it was just a catalogue.

The image works because of the powerful shapes chosen in the first place, the placing of the camera which turned rectangles into vertical and a series of matching diagonal lines.

The above illustrates the selection or the finding of the shapes, combined with positioning to modify the shape to meet our needs.

It's possible that one is born interested in shapes, or one is not, but I strongly suspect that anyone can learn to improve their powers of observation. Certainly my own experience is that my own skills have improved hugely even in the last five years.

An Exercise To Try At Home

Go to your tool drawer or even the junk drawer and find some intersting shapes. Take them with you to a comfortable chair with decent but not too harsh lighting. Put on some suitable contemplative music of choice and sit down for an hour looking at each of the objects for at least five minutes each. Inspect it from every angle, from really close to arms length away. Pay attention to the way that light reflects from the surface and how lines change as the object is rotated in front of your eye. Look at shadows on the object and pay attention to how those shadows change the presentation of the object. Are there any positions from which it's hard to identify the object? Why?

The more you do this, the greater variety of objects you study, from vegetables to eggs, to a cloth duster to a pair of scissors, the sharper will be your powers of observation when out photographing and you spot a similar shape or surface.

Spend time with these objects cataloging which shapes are more interesting. It's likely not the whole object, rather one part that has an interesting line to it. Do you like sensuous curves or zig zags, tidy rectangles or triangles?

What An Object Is

The actual material or function of an object is really only of importance if you are doing advertising or photojournalism. For fine art, the object's function is completely irrelevant. This can be hard to get past but remember Edward Weston's use of toilets and dead bodies (animal and human) to provide fodder for his image making.

My image of round rubber gaskets hanging is a good example of the material and use being quite beside the point.

Order

Perhaps the one encompassing theme to looking for suitable shapes to photograph is order. The shapes have to be arranged in a cohesive way, whether by human hand or natures, whether the photographers or some metal worker from 50 years ago. There are times where even the randomness of objects can form a pattern - for example my image of a recycling plant below.

Order can be the way a garden hose is coiled, or the way cloth drapes from a breast or the repeated way that light reflects off of skin in a nude. Can you imagine the human body if each area reflected light differently, left from right, top from bottom, and so on - not nearly as effective in an image.

Shapes Bounded

Remember that whatever shapes we discover, we need to encompass it within the edges of a rectangular print (well usually and traditionally). Shapes which gradually peter out, like the end of a branch, exposing more and more of the background towards the edge of the object can be difficult to frame and the background becomes ever more important. Shapes transected by the edge of the image don't have that problem but now we have lost part of the shape and what is left has to work against the horizontal or vertical line of the image edge. Not all shapes are suitable.

Plus Two


Saturday, November 03, 2007

And Two More....



Looking more like an exotic plant than something out of a machine shop, it is in fact a series of circular hanging gaskets.




Not sure that this wiring is up to the latest codes, though one could argue that since it's been working for more than 50 years, and it's unlikely anything made today is going to survive that long...

And Once More Into The Breach





This was trip # 7 to Independent Machinery. The amount of "stuff" lying around is incredible, most of it with an eighth of an inch of dust on it. There are boxes that probably haven't been touched in 50 years, all manner of odd parts.

I did pull out the box of springs and moved the gears closer to the edge of the shelf for one image and set them up vertically for the other. This whole business of being able to arrange one's subject at will is completely new to me and very challenging, but in a way more rewarding than simply discovering something and blasting away.

Success

It occurs to me that success in photography may have lot more to do with things other than artistic talent and therefore at least potentially is available to a lot more people than we might think. Here's some ideas to help any reasonably competent photographer gain more success.

1) Work hard. That may seem self evident, but the reality is that few successful photographers found that success instantly, most had to schlep their portfolios around a lot of galleries and clients before getting even a glimmer of success. Hard work is getting up early enough for the best light, slogging through the rain and snow to get the best weather for photographs, standing in the middle of the icy water for the best viewpoint, going the extra mile to get just the right image - whether that's in distance walked or details pursued to get the right studio shot.

2) Sell yourself. You can't get published unless you submit, you can't get clients unless you sell yourself. For many of us, the idea of becoming more salesman than photographer is complete anathema but talk to a lot of successful photographers and it's their gift of gab, their ability to present themselves that creates sales, whether it's standing around at a gallery opening or persuading a customer that they want bigger and better. For some of us, this is so unappealing that we may well decide that if this is what it takes to be successful, it's time to redefine what we mean by and want for success. New York studio photographers spend 90% of their time fixing problems and talking to customers, only 10% actually doing photography. Even Ansel had to approach and appease clients, work at Best's studio and clean the darkroom, order supplies, drive to the post office and all the mundane things which those of us who don't work full time as photographers have to do. Kinda makes you think. Be careful of what you whish for, you might just get it.

3) Pick a project. It's no coincidence that the images I have had published have been part of major sometimes very long term projects. Independent Machinery is six trips so far and I hope to head out this afternoon again. My badlands series in this issue of Lenswork Extended goes back 23 years. Odds are that any project that you have the energy to really commit to is going to be something that means something to you and is likely to produce more meaningful images, even if you can't see it. This is true whether you are talking Yosemite or a local 5 acre park, your city hall or Gugenheim Bilbao.

4) Success is relative. While you could aim for instant glory and eternal fame, if no one has ever heard of you, you need to start with modest ambitions. If no one has ever seen your work, clearly that is the first step - rather than submitting to contests in the hope of being the one winner, start showing your work around, get some feedback and act on it.Develop a really strong portfolio andd learn from early mistakes. If you have never been published, getting a series of rejections isn't going to be helpful, so start with a one or a few images for a readers section of your favorite magazine.

5) Give people what they want. This doesn't mean you need to make postcard pictures but you do need to consideer your "market", whether that's curators, gallery owners, publishers, connoisseurs, or the general t-shirt, baseball cap wearing public. If you don't like what you need to do to satisfy your public, then perhaps you may have to look for a different audience. Giving them what they want might dictate print size or shipping methods or doing matting for people if that's what your clients need. Issues like subject matter are sacrosanct. It may be that pictures of cute animals will sell better, but you have to decide if you are an artist or a hack.

Book News

After many a late night, the whole book has been edited and layout is almost finished. Tentative shipping from the printer is December 7 though when it will hit the stores I don't know. The book includes 180 photographs, 50,000 words of essays and I'm not sure what I'm going to do with myself once it's finished.