Friday, December 31, 2010

Slouching Toward 2011

When I was a mere lad starting out in the world, liquor ads were (and apparently still are) a kind of holy grail for commercial photographers. Miles of prose has been written about lighting them, how to shine the glass properly, the brands and watt second ratings of various and divers lighting rigs used to glitz up bottles of hootch.

We go to amazing lengths to glamorize things like booze and cigarettes, when, in fact, they need no hype at all to sell.

The bottle in the shot was disposed of by our local "character", i.e., wino. Who promptly resumed asking for change for "food".

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Not Quite All the News...

Today's NY Times has an article, sweet, gentle and nostalgic, about the last roll of Kodachrome being processed - NY Times Kodachrome article.

While it's touching and all, and some of the reasons Kodachrome was so well liked are mentioned, there are a few glaring omissions. First of all it was incredibly fine grained film, coming in two daylight speeds - 25 and 64 ASA (ISO) and one tungsten version (40 ASA). It was remarkably accurate as far as color went as long as the contrast of the original scene was low, and most startling of all, it offered real permanence, something which the Ektachrome type and Kodacolor type films could not guarantee (see all those prints from the 1970's, or not, since they all turned orange). The special quality the reporter refers to is simply the fact that the film boosted color in low contrast situations.

It was far from perfect - there were drawbacks... For a long time only Kodak would process it. When independent labs were finally allowed to run Kodachrome, a Kodak trained technician had to be present. Later on, labs could, and did, buy table top processors. It was not a rapid access film, and was not great for fast turn around. It was contrasty as hell, and required great care in exposure and printing (if you needed prints). But again - IT WAS PERMANENT. Slide form the 1930's still look pretty damn good. Oh - yeah - it wasn't cheap. Thirty six exposure rolls used to run me about $15.00 with processing. When you calculate the cost of film (because you had to bracket like mad), shooting was a pretty pricey affair.

In my personal opinion, Kodachrome was doomed the minute high speed, stable, fine grain color negative materials - like Fuji 800 - came on the market. When scanners and digital conversion hit, slide film was pretty much doomed, when the last generation of digital cameras arrived - buggy whip time.

"You pick up contrast and lose detail" - a sentence not heard anymore. This is what would happen when you made a second generation image from film. The blacks would go blacker, the highlights blow out, noise (grain) creeps in, and colors go out of whack. Duping Kodachrome was a real struggle.

Not anymore...

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Come and Gone

Park Avenue and 92nd Street today at about 11:30 am.

Rinsed the shot through the new NIK HDR filter. Yeah, I hate hdr. But this filter actually seems to pull out details without getting obnoxious about it.

The hasn't been a hell of a lot of traffic today, what there was just seemed to slip, slide and spin around a bunch.

Wind was pretty fierce, took the camera bag off my shoulder a couple of times.
Made it a bit into the park, but my snow boots, fancy Eddie Bauer type, kept untying themselves and dumping snow around my ankles.

Mayor Mitchell (the golden chap on the left) seems to be taking the whole thing in stride, however.

The contrast range presented by the snow was easily handled by the camera. Good old 16 bit raw files.

The challenge of shooting snow is in keeping the tones light enough to look like snow, retain detail, and not just go gray and blah...

Although, as has been pointed out to me by my kindly old mother, pure white and pure black just don't exist as pigments or pixels. We are dealing with approximations.

And yes, gang, we have found the joy of panoramas! No more moping about not being able to afford panorama cameras! Stitching software that works!

Apparently, the thing that helps the most is not to shoot with a wide angle lens, but glom together a whole set of telephoto images (again, on the left...).

These guys are probably wishing they were wearing something.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Myth of Lighting Equipment

Or, more aptly, the myth of spending a fortune on lighting equipment...

Do you have a a window? Does it let light in? Do you have a tripod (this is one piece of equipment that is absolutely essential)? Something neutral colored to use as a background?

Well, then, hold onto your socks, Bunky, you are all set to make really good "studio" photographs.

The idea that great photography mostly comes from highly equipped studios (you know the type - $40k worth of strobes, four or five nervous assistants, and one smug sob at the head of it all) is a palpable falsehood, and a lie, even.

If your desire is to over light and over style whisky or perfume bottles, make women look like plastic, or generally aid and abet those who would mulct and addle the public, you do need all this stuff. But then your interest ain't in art.

Put a single flower in a vase and make a beautiful photo using window light and a tripod. Make a portrait using window light, keep it as simple as you can, and concentrate on the image, not on the equipment.

Intent, tools and technique - all combine to make the image strong.

See what you want, then take the picture.

Happy Holidays...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

All That's Wrong With American Culture..

I was riding the subway today, and for the third or fourth time saw an ad for Norman Rockwell and his photography at the Brooklyn Museum. The ad shows a photo of a sailor getting tattooed and the subsequent painting Rockwell vomited forth. Everything that's wrong with American Culture is distilled in Rockwell's nauseous output.

His work is a staggering, highly skilled, manipulative sham. representing an America that never existed.

Jingoistic, racist, hideously condescending to both subject and viewer, it makes Socialist Realism seem as fresh as an iced glass of sparkling water. Smarmy, mean spirited, coy, commercial, reeking of falsity from it's very bones, easy to swallow and impossible to digest, his work should be consigned to the toxic waste dump history, perhaps to be studied as a something to avoid at all costs...

To show his work in a major museum is an abomination - and cloaking it as an examination of the connection between the camera and painting is a joke.
Actually, it's a money maker, a revenue generator, and panders to a false nostalgia hiding under the guise of intellectualism. Which was something that neither Norman Rockwell or The Saturday Evening Post were examples of.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Slithering Into the New Year

It's getting close to the end of the year, fear and loathing are running rampant through my little brain, as I wonder where the money is going t come from.
One of the perpetual woes of being in the art world without a trust fund, day job and being over fifty...

Well, hell - if I did this for the money alone I woulod have stopped years ago.

One of the many things that the digital era has freed me from, however, is the expense of film, paper, chemicals, duplicating fees, shipping charges, insuring images, and wondering when the images shipped will be returned, and if they will be returned unharmed.

Anyhow go here and buy something, dammit!:

or here:


It was about 17 degrees when I saw this today... Romping around midtown amongst the altars of commerce.

There is a strange mix of pseudo-nostalgia and sterile glass and metal.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I Hate HDR

It's true. I hate HDR. The only kind I can stand is the sort that doesn't look like HDR but shows a full range of tones. Most of it looks FAKE with a capital fooey. They remind me of the ghastly English illustrators/photographers of the late 19th and early 20th century who leaned heavily on romanticized, idealized and morally uplifting techniques. Allegory may have it's place (not sure where) but not in the visual arts.

Mediocre images seem to top the list of candidates for the HDR treatment. Mediocrity, even when steroid driven, is still mediocrity. And when artists want to "tell a story" they damn well better be using a word processor or a pen.

It is a question of need - we no longer need illustrators to bring us the news, as we no longer need minstrels to sing it to us. And visual artists are freed to produce compelling, non-didactic, politically incorrect art.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Oh The Humanity

Tulips are one of my favorite subjects to photograph. They change rapidly, and become more and more beautiful. Got some Parrot Tulips the other day, set up the lights, and blazed away. Was all technical and careful and low ISO and all.

Later on the afternoon light came through my window and lit the little fellers better than anything I could have thought of.

Not a lot of light, and it was changing rapidly what with clouds and all, so I dialed up to ISO 2000, then 3200, took a deep breathe and shot and shot and shot (the light was changing fast).

I promptly printed a couple of 11x17 prints...

No surprise - the hand held, low light, iso 3200 image looked better.

If there is a lesson here it's probably that you can see a lot just by looking and the hell with
technical overkill...

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Language, Language

When did photographs start to be be called captures? Whenever someone refers to a photograph of mine as a capture I get all nervous.
I feel like I'm sneaking around with a net and trapping stuff. A photograph is a photograph.... it means writing with light fer chrisakes!
When you capture something it also implies that it can get away again. Imagine that - all of those captures getting together and running away. Going home, reunited with their loved ones.

I sure as hell did not capture the moon (above). Even if I did - where would I keep it?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thor Heyerdahl Slept Here

Or, why I try to carry a damn camera all the time.

Found this right around the corner from where I live. Which, even through I am not well to do, is a fairly well to do neighborhood in Manhattan. Took a little correction to remove the barrel distortion and get the perspective right, and I still fine myself wondering why a small stone head a a la Easter Island is sitting in front of an Upper East Side Townhouse.

Read "Aku Aku" when I was a kid and those things freaked me out to no end.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Can't Be Accused of Compulsive Blogging....

I simply done do it enough...

Here goes:

A belated and endlessly edited entry

I realized that there is one thing that irritates me about my Canon - the lens shades are somewhat hard to get on and off... however a friend with another brand of camera has lens shades that fall off and tend to start rolling away when he's standing at the curb and the light has just changed.

One other small thing - the image stabilizer tends to give me the fantods as the image swims around the viewfinder for a moment.

After having shot for stock for a looong time, I still find myself fighting the urge to shoot for stock - loosely defined as a photography that Illustrates a Point and Tells a Story. Carrying a camera all the time (well, mostly) and shooting stuff that catches my eye without regard to it's ultimate use is freeing as all hell. And since film is not an issue (my rough calculations show that since May, I would have had to spend approximately $10,000.00 on film, processing and scanning to equal the amount I've shot digitally, and the faint, but ever present, nagging thoughts about the cost of said film, are gone. This frees one to make great pictures, regardless of whether or not I think I can sell them....

However, selling them is nice.

Anyhoo. Someone once said that they loved writing, but hated the paperwork. I love writing (blogging) but I despise typing. Having taken typing in school in the dark ages of manual machines my left hand sort of knows it's way around that part of the keyboard. I fumble and stagger around and rely on spell check, and am just too damn lazy to sit around and practice typing.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Shut Up and Shoot

There is all sorts of annoying yammering and arm waving over the technical aspects of photography - get any group of painters together and they aren't going to sit around and talk about brushes for hours on end.

Generally speaking if I bracket, and am mindful when I hit extremes - like the one on the left - stuff works out pretty well. I don't have to spend hours in a darkroom playing with paper brands, grades, and developers order to get a print that has a solid range of tones - so why spend hours and hours calibrating and metering a scene to death...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Autofocus Whines

I am a very very very satisfied owner (among other cameras) of the Canon 5D Mark II. Recently ran across someone's rant about the failures of the camera's autofocus system to be absolutely perfect and wonderful all the time.
Well...alrighty then.

If you want perfect focus all the time you are living in another universe. No camera offers that, no photographer is capable of it (unless you are in the studio with everything bolted down and the camera on a tripod and even then I've seen people screw up). Not to mention that there are a lot of truly great photographs that aren't that sharp.

Yes, the autofocus will search and fret when the situation is right, which is why we have eyes and the ability to switch the damn thing off and use our eyes and our brains, which seems to be a lost or dying art.

Oh to find the perfect camera - six or seven ounces with a 12 to 800mm f1.4 zoom with a 65 megapixel full frame sensor and an 8"x12" view screen for $199.95.
In the meantime I'm gonna shut up and shoot...

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Better the Color, the Better the Black and White

Got to discussing with someone how I make black and white images in the digital age. What I do is this: get the fullest range of colors and color contrast possible, and then convert to black and white. As in the image to the left. Photography has always been in color - it's the materials that dictated the output.
A full range of tones, with details in the shadows and the highlights is the ideal. And since we have the advent of 16 bit color, we are dealing with a huge number of colors. ]
The Zone System made it possible, for the first time, to represent a contrast range that the naked eye could not see - if one squinted to make out the highlights, the shadows vanished, and vice versa.
Note: I am not referring to HDR which has it's place. Just not sure where...Given the movement of clouds, leaves, water and people HDR can be problematic. To squeeze the most out of any given fame is my goal.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Upcoming Show

After a long, and I mean long, hiatus, I am starting to show my work again...
It's taking the form of a small start in an OIA sponsored show at New York Law School in November of this year.

The images shown are from a couple of years ago and while I am really excited about showing, I look at the work from a different perspective than that of my newer stuff.

There's a gap between making and showing work which allows me to detach, and helps propel me forward.

Two of the images were shot digitally, one is a scan from film. The digital images were shot on an eight megapixel camera and the color negative was scanned commercially (didn't have a decent scanner at the time). Reprinting them on better paper, and more in line with the way I see now, reminded me a little of trying to milk the most quality out of 35mm negatives. It's easier to get better detail, color, contrast range, etc. out of medium and large format film. It's now easier getting the above from full sized sensors and 20+ megapixel cameras.
Learning to get the best quality from the the smallest, when applied to larger files or formats, only improves the work. I don't tend to coast on the image size alone.

I'll post opening dates as soon as I get them...

Monday, October 4, 2010

Tools and Intent

Last night, as I lay abed considering the fate of the universe, I started to think about issues of tools and techniques in photography.
The conclusion arrived at was - the closer one can bring one's intent to the tools at hand, the better the image will be. This requires an ability to see what the image will look like before the camera is in front, and long before it is opened in whatever editor y'all use. It is also the place where pushing buttons to see what happens moves from automatic art making to considered use of the controls of the software and the camera.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Does Difficulty Define Aesthetics?

In the past, before the dawn of the digital age, the powers that be in the world of criticism and aesthetics had clamped a set of definitions and rules, which in hindsight, seem to be more related to the difficulty of manipulating images than about pure aesthetics.

I'm not going anywhere near the realm of editorial or journalistic ethics, this is about imagery as art.

Shooting with film sets certain limits on what can be accomplished reasonably quickly and at reasonable cost. It is then, far easier to work within the limits, and let the limits start to define the medium.

A photograph can now be manipulated in a staggering number of ways, any one of which, and possibly all, are as valid, and powerful as the "pure" photograph. Whatever that might be...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Another Month Gone By....

One light at a time...
I've never managed to do the multiple lighting set ups that I've read about - even when I followed directions to the letter I'd end up with all sorts of extra shadows and blown highlights.
So, for years and years and years I've used one light, and done just fine.
Most of the time the complex multi light/reflector set ups are for advertising.
Intense levels of freak-out panic, worry and perfectionism, and all for something that will be seen for a week - maybe - and forgotten - rapidly.
No, I don't like advertising. Dislike it at best, mostly detest it.
The few friends I've had who have ventured into advertising got caught up in the ad itself - completely forgetting the subject. And I've seen too many promising artists foul up their talent.

Monday, August 30, 2010

More and more and more good stuff is my oldest site, and now, my newest, with a complete overhaul.

Here are the rest

Keyworded, meta-tagged and all that kind of good stuff.

Fine Art America and UGallery are absolute gifts of the gods... I'd recommend them to any and all.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Where You Are There You Are

There beautiful and powerful images all around us. All it requires is the presence of mind to see and the nerve to take the picture. Since film is no longer an issue, SHOOT!
And shoot some more.

I've found that I am not filling up my memory card the way I used to when I first started shooting digital, and this is good.

I went to one of my favorite gardens yesterday to shoot (it's part of the NY City Park System, so all manner of rues are in place. One of them is about commercial activity, the other requires permits to use tripods. There was a photography class standing at the gates, surrounding the teacher, who was yelling into his cell at a parks department official and having his class shout, in unison into the phone. He apparently had been told he couldn't have twenty five students with tripods in the garden all at once without a permit.

Public areas are not free for all kinds of uses at all times. Photographers have enough problems with the image of being rude, intrusive and pushy as it is...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

New Site....

I will be uploading new content to - go look.
The old version had too much and not enough, I'm paring down and simplifying. Not just my site(s), but I'm stripping out any software that I don't use often enough to justify the disk space and wasted cpu cycles.

Monday, August 23, 2010

If You Work For Free...

You get paid what you are worth.
There are a ton of excuses for working fro free or next to nothing, and they all seem to fall under the category of disbelief in one's abilities, talents and value.
The only time I work for free is when I am donating services and take a tax deduction for them.
Yeah - the Internets have made it harder...
You don't have to pay for film, processing and shipping...
You wanna get a start...
It's OK because you have a day job...
Except - The Interwebs has made it possible to market to the entire world, you have huge equipment costs and equipment value drops precipitously, the only start you'll get is with those who won't pay, and with a day job should act as a back-up, not a replacement for income.
Attitude turns it around.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Down and Dirty

Anyway I am going to continue to post tutorials that concentrate on making the technical aspects of shooting a whole lot less expensive.

Most of my studio still life shots are made with window light, either indirect or diffused. Shower curtains, tracing paper, anything without a color cast works.

Here's one. A black card (at an angle) provided the background.

I put an almost rotten pear on a curved sheet of typing paper and shot hand held at ISO 400. Tweaked it in Photoshop - since I can't afford to buy all the chemicals to do historical processes, I let Photoshop do the dirty work.

AND: Why most books I've read on Photoshop are almost worse than useless.
Most computer books are way too expensive to start with. And when I pay $30 - $50 for a book that promises to unlock the secrets of a given program, I almost always feel cheated.

One is faced with a glut of information, and some pretty pictures, ande told to purchase all sorts of extra back up drives, monitors, and such. It's like wanting to learn cabinet making and being given instructions on how to use every tool in the shop in one sitting, leaving no room for what one wants and needs to know.

You don't need to know how to operate a lathe to build a shelf. Or a book case.

I'd prefer that these books kept it simple and concentrated on making images, and not selling us stuff.

To paraphrase old Ansel Adams - making a print (image) is akin to the performance of a piece of music - each time a performer plays the piece there will be slight variations, changes in expression, deeper maturity and understanding of the composition.

1. open image
2. duplicate background
3. save image as a PSD file!
4. stare at image

Repeat step 4 as often as needed.

5. decide what you are going to do with the image (print it, post on blog, email to your cousins, etc.)
6. stare at image some more
7. does it need anything? decide what you need to do.

When I first started printing for publication i was always asked for prints that had "snap" that "popped" and generally would catch the attention of the viewer and would withstand the degradation of the dot screen process as well.

Fast popping technique #1 - open the Levels adjustment layer and move the top right hand slider to the left a little.

#2 - add a thin black line around the image (edit/stroke/black/one or two pixels).

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Straw Men

I recently came across another article (don't remember where) in which the author, in the first three sentences raised the old art v science "debate". I don't remember much else about the article because the first sentences stopped me cold. We've heard versions of this for years and years and years and years.

Is there a way art can exist without science? Science without art?

Chemists who make pigments, optical scientists who make lenses possible, metallurgists, mathematicians, textile and paper makers...

And, since science relies on observation - an ability to see, compose, sort, frame, use perspective, and make intuitive leaps seems essential in both disciplines.

These are scary times (when aren't times scary?) partly due to a rush toward ignorance and superstition. Anti vaccinators, homeopaths, psychics, Qui Gongers et al., and religious fundies of all stripes are gaining ground. This is where the art v science "debate" can become dangerous. Scientists are portrayed as nerdy unfeeling cold Mr. Spock logical godless sorts, and the new age/fundie/alt med crowds all vie to be depicted as the owners of spirituality that "art" is built on.

The occasional scientist who paints (or writes, or composes music) is sometimes held up as if to say "see, we make art too!"

I once was speaking with a surgeon who got all "gee golly I could never do what you do how do you do it" with me about my art. I mentioned to him that his ability to take people apart and repair them, to keep them alive and well was probably just as valid as making pretty art. He got all waffly with me again.

The need to make order out of chaos seems to me what drives both disciplines.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Pride Parade NYC 2010 and other odds and ends

The more things change, the more things change... When I was a kid anyone dressed like the gentleman above would have been arrested, hauled off to the laughing academy, and/or worse


This one would have caused a small to medium sized riot...

And for al the world this looks like Aunt Flo from Fort Lauderdale. It is to wonder.

When I was done shooting the event I wandered over to a local garden where weddings are sometimes held on the weekend. Not for the wedding, but to shoot perty flars and such. Wafting from the garden were the strains of "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring". It was a Jewish wedding. This confused me. It's a little like serving pork chops at a Seder.

The bee didn't care...

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Points of View

Locked elbows and knees are the bane of photography - how many pictures of tops and backs of heads do we see?

As I get older, and cameras get heavier (or so it seems) I am also tempted to get lazy and not try to get a different viewpoint.

Was once at an event, struggling to get a decent shot of the speaker, a shot without the microphone smack dab in the middle of his face, when I noticed the other photographer sitting in the center of the auditorium, shooting with a gazillion dollars worth of Canon equipment (lenses the size of fire hydrants) and shooting head on mike over the face blandness.

In any event, most of the time I shoot these kinds of things, I hear "Great shots, could we have two of the handshake, and the group shot?"

I guess it boils down to shooting for one's own satisfaction, and not settling for "good enough".

Thursday, May 20, 2010

How to Shoot Too Many Pictures

That one's easy. In my case, I have a habit (from the old days of film) of shooting three frames of everything. Did this as insurance - anyone who has had film returned with scratches can identify with this. It was also cheaper than getting dupes made.

Now we have huge memory cards, hard drives, external drives, and the days of only being able to transmit 256 color Gifs or 65kb JPEGs are over.

So now I'm clogging up hard drives, dvds, and the interwebs with files, as is everyone else.

This has taken down the elitist aspect of photography a notch.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Last Shot of the Day...

Back on line - uploading images all over the lot (selling absolutely nothing, but uploading away).
Got a new video card and set up two monitors. Still getting used to it. Have the feeling they should be both streaming blue text against a black background while the zombies snarl at my door.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Playing Catch-Up

Been updating my site - adding pictures - all was going fine and WHAM! All I get for a gallery is a blank page...

Anyhoo - I'm off line for a little while while I add new doo-dads to my computer in an effort to soup it up enough to handle some of the newer memory hogging software I've added. It really doesn't seem that there is a computer that can't be slowed to a crawl.

Mind has come grinding to a semi-halt since I've been wrangling huge raw files from the Canon 5D - 120 megs at 16 bits. I remember when Photoshop was somewhere around 40 megabytes. A respectable image file starts at 60 megs now.

So it's about playing catch-up since the boffins that come up with all the new software are working on the latest, fastest, hottest and bestest equipment, us poor plebeians are in a race to replace.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Flickering away

Set up a Flickr account:

That's Flickr, MySpace, LinkedIn, Face Book, Fine Arts America, ETSY, my own websites: for fine art and for the rest. All those new arenas to be ignored in.

And now to go off topic - way off topic - I got talked into watching Avatar. MY GOD! It had to be one of the dumbest movies I've ever seen. Unobtanium? Why not Cantgetanyatallium, or Impossibletodigoutofthegroundium? Never mind that it's the same plot as Pocahontas - I'm still trying to get my mind around sending someone out into an alien jungle without telling them what kinds of animals are there, and giving him a weapon that's useless.

And wandering off all curious to get chased by Hammerhead triceratops with flowers for faces?
Being adopted by things which look suspiciously like the jellyfish from Sponge Bob?

The military/corporate baddies spend bajillions on transplanting minds doesn't spend a dime on figuring out the mysterious "flux". I guess they were saving it for flux capacitors. Floating mountains with no explanation....

It also had the look of one of those computer games that won't quite run right in spite of everything.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Photography Died Again

It happened again. Someone else has proclaimed the death of photography. It turns out that photography hasn't so much died as become far less profitable than it's ever been. Battles for rights, payments, royalties continue, with the artist usually on the losing side. This is really about how we, as a culture and a society, pay artists.

Painters really get the short end of it - sell the painting and that is it - no more money for that image, no matter how much it increases in value.

As a society we will spend obscene amounts of money redundant weaponry - we have an arts budget (NEA) that is less than the amount set aside for our military bands.

As long as artist (photographers, musicians, painters, writers, poets, etc.) are forced to scramble and scrape in this environment we are set-ups for being exploited.

Yes, we need better subsidies, more grants, more access, less expensive tools, more arenas to exhibit, perform, and publish. There is also no substitute for a live audience (I don't know about anyone else, but uploading images into the interwebz often feels, to me, like whistling into a void).

What would 1/10 of 1% of the defense budget pay for...

Updating my site(s) - newly redecorated my main site and am constantly uploading to Fine Art America site in the dim and growing dimmer hope that someone will buy a print...
Added Google stuff (ad words, ad sense, ad nauseum, ad lib) next pay pal links and if all else fails I know where I can get a good organ/monkey setup and start a new career as a busker.

Site is currently parked at and is supposed to switch over to .com any moment now.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Excuses Excuses

And now for some more (possibly unwarranted) ranting:

I have heard statements like "I go through a whole box of paper before I get a print I'm satisfied with", "if you get one good shot on a roll of 36 exposures you're doing well", "if I get one good shot on an 8 megabyte card I'm doing well".

In my not at all humble opinion, if you can't see what you're shooting before your push the shutter button, stop, put down the camera and stare at the subject until you know what you are doing. Great pictures are not stumbled upon or lucked into anywhere as frequently as you think.

I've been at this for thirty-five years so I have a damn good sense of what I will get when I shoot, read the Ansel Adam's books religiously, and went and looked at the work of Adams, the various Westons, Cartier-Bresson, et al., and most importantly absorbed the work of the great painters, as well as having spent countless hours printing in a wet darkroom under intense pressure to make reproduction quality prints from negatives that were underexposed and over-developed, and worked for editors whose standards were quite high, so I have absolutely no patience for the above statements.

The paper and film manufacturers probably loved the one-shot-in-36 and one-print-in-a-hundred-sheets part of the photographic community, but really, if we want to be considered artists, let's show some sort of skill that transcends luck as well as saves materials. Ink cartridge and paper manufacturers also do real well in the print yourself silly world.

Gary Winograd was an example of this sort of mind set. He shot endlessly, often without raising the camera to his eye, and when he died left a ton of unedited work behind (somewhere in the area of a thousand rolls of film). He rode the critical waves, disliked when alive, lionized just before and after he died, but also held up as some sort of example to the aspiring "street photographer".

Maybe it's a valid way of working, but it's wasteful and sloppy.

He also belonged to the "contempt for the subject" school of photography epitomized by Diane Arbus.

OK - I am a grouch.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


Maybe this post should be called "Singing for Our Suppers"...

Am revamping my web sites to better reflect my current self. Pared away anything non-image related, and am uploading a whole new slew of stuff. Site should be finished and up in about a week.

The rough form can be seen at:

If anyone is reading this (which I tend to doubt since there aren't any cute cats) wander on over.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The more things change the more things change

Basic photographic technology has changed at a stunning rate in the past ten years - my first digital prints turned yellow within a few months, and now prints will last for decades and the color reproduction of today's printers is mind boggling.

The technology I grew up on had been in existence for seventy years (at least). Improvements came slowly, and sometimes were not improvements, but disasters waiting to happen - color prints made in the 1970s mostly turned orange and died. Films became faster and finer grained - Fuji 800 f\color negative film was a joy to work with. Cameras auto-focused faster and better, meters improved, but it was still a film/paper world.

Color permanence meant having separation negatives made, at great expense, of your color work; black and white prints had to be toned and washed for hours. There was also the matter of all of the hours spent in the darkroom. Seeing the print appear in the developer was magical. But - the hours in a dark, often hot, smelly, usually cramped space was only for those who truly loved what they did.

My first darkroom was the floor of my bathroom. Since I started shooting seriously in 1974 or so, this lasted for thirty years.

I now spend hours staring at screens, and doing what was once almost impossible, in minutes.
The changes that made digital photography more than a competitor for film has evolved in under ten years.

Do I miss the darkroom? No. I certainly don't miss pouring gallons of water down the drain so a print would last, or dealing with some of the chemicals. There were toners made out of some nasty stuff (like mercury and uranium), bleaches with cyanide in them, stuff that would cause contact dermatitis, or turn your fingernails black if you handled your prints without tongs.

Oh - and I used to smoke. I know, you should never smoke in a darkroom. Ha.

I'd come staggering out of a printing session with a bad case of the head staggers. When the prints were washed drying presented another set of problems. Do I air dry? Use blotters?
When are the blotters used up? Have I really gotten the damn things free of chemicals? If I use fast drying resin coated paper do I have to worry about permanence? Thousands of prints made during the eighties and nineties turned red in the highlights because there was developer in the paper emulsion (to speed processing). Will pollution turn parts of the print into a weird bronze color?

So the new world is preferable.