The Great Sadness

The Great Sadness

I recently shared a Quote on my facebook and Instagram.  The Quote was "Photography Is The Saddest Of The Visual Arts"  It was promptly asserted that this is the case only if one has a bad attitude. Could this be? Does all visual art exist in a state of pure joyful perfection? I think not and for those never emotionally affected by art I am sorry for you. I admittedly can be a bit negative in my attitude toward photography at times. I do however try to develop a positive attitude in others. Above all I promote truth and this is an aspect of photography one should be prepared for.

Now the statement. "Saddest Of The Visual Arts" is not  saying that photography is inherently sad. Although some may think it so. It is not what I said. Compare photography to other visual arts. Some may move you to a sad state but not in the way photography does. When I speak of photography I am not speaking of photo composites or work over manipulated into digital "art ". I am speaking of real photography crafted in a way to be artistic, creative and a representation of reality. To me there is no other visual art that brings you reality in the way photography does. Where this reality comes from is part of the reason for the emotional ride it can take you on like no other. It comes from the past. Every photograph is an image from the past, it is an accurate representation of a time that was and is no longer. Unlike a video a photograph allows the memories to assemble their own sort of flow as you pick out what you miss, regret, enjoyed but is no longer etc. etc. I do consider video to be a visual art but the scene is played for you and guides your heart and mind. A photograph lets them run free. 

Over the years I have destroyed many photographs and discarded many more negatives and even deleted some files. Foolish? yes, I think so but at the time putting the past in the past seemed like a good idea. Maybe it was and the memories of the memories make me second guess that decision but at the time I may of known it was better to not have the images in the future. 

Today I keep images that are simultaneously joyful and sad in folders. I don't look at them often but I don't want to lose them either. Some are excellent photographs. Some are very good parts of life to celebrate but the realness of photography is what also makes them the saddest. They are all moments in the past never to be regained and not to be done over. 
Was That Intentional?
Social Media Influencer. What is that anyway? No, I am not one. It can not be denied however that we influence each other. Even better when we encourage one another knowingly or not.  I can't help but wonder when I notice an increase in B&W images on friends and followers social media.  Is it because they see me doing B&W and decided to do some too? Or is it like when you buy a new vehicle and then the roads are suddenly full of them? 

Black and white photography has long been my favorite. I have heard much said about making images for B&W. It's retro, it's easier, nostalgic, timeless, artsy, creative, boring and I am sure more than those I just don't pay attention too. However I think the most important thing to say in photographing for B&W is not a statement. It is a question and one you need to ask yourself. Is it intentional?  When you set out to create photography are you planning to create B&W images? In the film days maybe the answer was . I'm shooting Tri-x sooo, Duh. What about now in the digital age?  B&W is an easy afterthought. Maybe it will work if I make it B&W maybe not, can easily be an approach. For me I learned in B&W. Previsualization in B&W and the ability to mentally flip through different B&W filters was a advantageous skill. I did this so much I had gotten to the point where I wish my mind was not converting everything I would see into a B&W photo. Eventually something happened that I still think never should of. Newspapers started printing color photos. So I started to be cured of this condition. I had to be healed from my B&W previsualization  in order to produce color work as a photojournalist. 
Sure it's all photography but the approach to seeing is different. I have heard it said that B&W is easier than color because there is no color to think about and that B&W is more difficult because you don't have color to make the image.  YES! but neither. It can go either way if you let it but in the end the two views cancel each other out. B&W is just a different way of thinking. It is different in what you photograph, how you compose and how you plan to manipulate (edit) the image for that final look. The image Southbound with this piece was photographed late afternoon. Although shaded there was plenty of light. Color was flat and boring but I didn't care. I saw minimalism, contrast, lines, a bit of the abstract and areas of what could be interesting shadow detail. I could previsualize this image in B&W and photographed with that intention. To the eye this scene was very different. My previsualization did not include making the colors look great or stand out. The image is from my Fuji GFX. I like this camera for the large sensor and great dynamic range. The aspect of the ratio is more suitable for the prints I like to make and is super for square images. Like nearly all digital cameras it is color and I can photograph to make color images or B&W JPGs with all sorts of settings. Sometimes I make my B&Ws in camera but most often I prefer to make them from the color RAW file. I think this is where some photographers may struggle with B&W. You start shooting in color, you see color and your trying to bend it to a B&W.  The popular advice to make a B&W image seems to be to first produce a good color image and then make your adjustments. I have a different approach. Maybe I will talk about it someday.

For now If you want to make B&W images I encourage you. Let it start in your mind. Really work at figuring out what images will work for B&W. If you can switch your camera to photograph show you B&W do that. If you have settings to control the tone curve (Contrast) make it as flat as possible. You can add contrast later. Go out with the mindset of "I am producing B&W images today."


What You Were Thinking!

Going Shooting

Did you read that correctly? No shame in trying again. Maybe a few of you will remember when a conversation on a photography or piece of art started with something like "Tell me about it"  or "What were you thinking?"

Something happened with digital. Maybe it was putting photography in the hands of everyone with a few bucks. Automating it to the point where the creation of a decent image made them feel like a real pro and this  produced endless experts. Many of these experts will gladly tell you what you were thinking with your images but sadly they will get something very wrong, Very, very wrong.

Let me start with this. In the late 80's I was learning photography. Wow I loved working in the darkroom and there was so much exciting about the art of photography. A friend and excellent print maker as well as photographer wanted to go see a show of photography. I wanted no part of it. I did not want to support nor be seen there. It's not like my mom was going to walk in but..  OK It was a show of photographs of gay men and I didn't want to go. Then I went, because my friend enthusiastically talked me into it. It ended up I was glad I did. Although I didn't like the subject of the images (That's me) I did think the photographs were well done and some of the best prints I have ever seen. (That's the work of the artist/ photographer)
Let me break the types of photo groups I join online into two groups. Film and Digital. Join a film group and post a picture of a gun or what may be sort of a sexy picture. Usually the sexy picture is a woman because they typically make better subjects. In truth though it's a figure study / art nude / artistic image. In general the two groups will react very differently. In the film group you are likely to have positive comments, questions and conversation. In the digital group you are likely to have crying emojis, negative comments that include how you are exploiting women (or men) and how guns are terrible. With most of these negative comments coming out of the U.K. I think it must be illegal to photograph people and a gun to defend yourself is just not a possibility. I think you are expected to run, hide and tell rather than stand and fight. Whatever the reason here is the point. It does not matter how good the image is. The photograph is not seen in the digital group just the subject is. In the film group the photograph is more likely to be seen. The reason for this I believe is an approach to learning art / photography. I think the film crowd is older in general and had to learn photography through study and mentors. Even younger film photographers likely seek out help from experienced photographers. Digital photographers however picked up a camera and sought likes, learned a few things on youtube and found some software that worked. It is like the thinking about art part was skipped entirely. The time spent for that was wasted peeping pixels (Looking at images at 100%) Modern photography has become about content and popularity rather than creation of art. So now when they see something they don't like the content of and there is no dislike button the image receives the unsolicited negative criticism that fits the viewer's perspective and sometimes a rant of what is wrong with the creator of the image(s). There is no effort made to see and understand the creators perspective. So no learning for the viewer takes place.  What did they get very very wrong though?  When accusing the artist of whatever social or moral wrongs they think are going on they exposed nothing of the artist. What they did do with full success is expose their own heart and mind.

But I Bought The Shirt
Well Send it back. If you don't know because you don't own it then good for you. Let me explain. The Shirt that says something like "Everyone's a photographer until M" It includes a graphic of a camera dial with the silly picture modes of a consumer grade camera. Don't misunderstand me. If you have such a camera you can make good images. Odds are the sensor is the same as in higher models. Enjoy your camera and learn how to use it. 

What I am getting at is the premise of the shirt. The idea that people fancy themselves as photographers until they have to use the camera on manual mode is in a sense backwards. However it is backwards to a large section of people in society who are fauxtographers to begin with. So for those doing it backwards from the start it may seem forward.  So you pride yourself on M. Congratulations you made it to square one!

Believe it or not there was a time when learning photography you were lucky if your camera used a battery and had a meter. Your option was manual and you actually learned how to use it. So Manual in a real beginning to learn situation is a starting point and not a sign of having arrived. I am of the belief that many playing photographer on M think they have mastered exposure because of all the dots and numbers in the viewfinder they can get that digital meter in whatever form it is to read 0. (Zero) like there knowledge of metering however they are now qualified for the shirt or so they think.

The thing with manual mode is there are situations where it is advantageous or even necessary. There are more situations where it is a disadvantage and some sort of auto mode would benefit you. So get off M and get on an auto mode of choice!  But wait, there's more. Don't leave M (Square one) until you know what's going on. Learn what your camera meter sees, what it's goal is and what the different metering modes are (I dislike matrix and prefer average or center weighted)  Once you understand what the meter is thinking you can start understand how to manipulate your exposure and outsmart your camera's meter for better or more creative photographs. When you start to catch onto this you can turn part of the exposure changes over to the camera by using aperture priority or shutter priority. You can control more or less exposure with an exposure compensation control. This can allow you to photograph in changing conditions much quicker.

Here is an experiment to help you understand your camera's meter. Get a nearly black piece of cardboard, a grey one and a white one. Turn off autofocus and set you camera to full manual. Maybe use a tripod and have these cards fill the frame and be out of focus. Now all your camera is seeing is reflected light from the card being photographed. Photograph each card individually centering your meter so you are using the exposure your camera thinks is best.  You don't need to use cardboard but use a material that is matte and not colored.  Learn scene evaluation. This is not a complete lesson but rather a prompt to research and learn more. 


Photography, Is It Even Art?

Burning Art

That used to be a real question discussed among photographers and other artists. I say "other artists" because I consider the question to be an easy YES. Photography is art. The argument is sometimes that the image is not applied by the hand. So what? Is dance art? I think so. Music? Yes even Screeching Weasel. Maybe especially. So to me art does not need to me a marking implement in hand to a substrate. Art is in the mind and may manifest itself in various forms.

In regard to photography I think there is a more important question that needs to be asked but I see it being discussed in none of the places I look. I do see it ignored in places where it should be being asked but it is not and I find this very disappointing. 

The new question seemingly not on anyone's mind is is this.  Is It Even Photography?
OK I know the world is changing and photography is changing. Does that mean we need to lose our standards?  A Flock Of Seagulls in their song Man Made "Man made machines make music for the man" Who is the artist now I wonder. Is it man made machines making art / photography? We are in a time where fauxtographers are snapping images, dropping them into software and applying presets they purchased. Scrolling through until they find their favorite. They then post the image and call themselves a photographer. Or maybe take that same image and drop it in some software and now it's a drawing or a painting. There is no knowledge or skill of drawing or painting. Both respectable arts that take years to master, like photography should.  Where are we today? What are we looking at? beyond composition what is actually created by the photographer and what knowledge and skill was involved? The image is bright and striking, stands out in the instagram feed but is that where it dies? Does the image stand the test of time? Can you have an intelligent conversation with the creator where they can explain their thoughts and methods? The world is flooded with fauxtography trying to pass itself off as the real thing. In truth it is automated over processed thoughtless imagery made to look good after the fact.

The real disappointment here is in the widespread acceptance of mediocrity. Is the thinking "I won't bust you on your fauxtography pretend art if you don't bust me on mine"?

As a photographer ask yourself this. Am I doing it? Am I going to far? Is it still photography when I am finished?  If you are an artist, digital or otherwise with photography as your starting point I am not saying that is bad. I am saying photography manipulated to far is no longer photography and applying someone else's work to yours is not your work. Where is the line for this?  Answer: You need to draw your own.

Bored Yet?
Bored yet? This piece may seem to contradict the one below but it is written for a different photographer. The piece below if you are new to photography and trying to sort things out. This for if you have been at it for a while and starting to wonder if you should've put more effort into something else. Yes, you probably should of but like me, here you are. 

My advice to new photographers who just LOVE IT! don't make it a career. If you have or have not maybe you have done it so much it's gotten old, your images stale, uninteresting and pointless. My purpose in photography started with a love for making images and turned into a way of making a living. I have a hard time breaking away from that makinging a living part and again enjoying the art of it for the Just Because.  I love my images to have a point in their creation so I try to sell prints and still produce stock photography. It is real good for your work to have a destination gives an excuse to create but even that can get old and repetitious. 

Often I feel Like I have done it all and at least twice over. I have thousands of hours photographing from helicopters, photographed plenty under water and from airboats, photographed nature landscapes, wildlife, construction, house fires, forest fires, professional sports, accidents, families, presidents, storms, happy people, angry people, etc. etc. etc.  So what's a seasoned photographer to do? Change it up! The camera in hand is not the only approach to photography. Likely you are starting to see everything with the same approach and an expected outcome. Where is the delightful surprise, the long shot success or the "I'll try this" that worked out? You are so good at what you do, it is safe, predictable and at least to you boring.

If you change your approach you will change how your mind starts to think about photography and the subjects you photograph. You will inevitably start creating different images and at the very least that rut you are in will get way wider. Things you learn and new approaches to composition, exposure and processing will carry over to your traditional work. This will make you a better, more thoughtful and energetic photographer in your day to day.

I have found several positive alternatives over the years. I built a 4x5 pinhole camera. Not a cardboard box but a red oak camera with a laser drilled pinhole.  Large format cameras have come and gone, medium format folders and TLRs are a most recent departure for me. I love TLRs and processing my own film.  All this has made me slow down and look at photography differently, think differently and create differently. 

The Master Of Photography

If Only

Zeiss Ikon 6x9

"If only I had a _____" said every photographer ever. Advice for aspiring photographers.

I am here to tell you know that I have not followed my own advice. That advice?  That next lens, next model up or full frame you have no idea why is better.... none of this will make you a better photographer. Not immediately anyway. What it will make you is poor. Less poor when you sell it but even more poor if you sell it for something else. I know. My friends poke fun at me for rolling through the gear. 

The idea that "I need" is super prevalent among new photographers.  That need often does not exist and is simply an excuse or a desperate search for an answer. An answer to the question "Why do my photos stink"  Let me assure you as you grow your photos will always stink. If you are committed to the art of photography you will never be truly happy with your work for more than a short time. I would like to offer a "but" however that is just the way it is.

So what will make you a better photographer? Less gear! Be warned, not less in quality. You probably never took up painting because your introduction was in school using chalk like watercolors on horrendous paper with garbage brushes. So I  suggest if you are just starting to research what quality gear might be and start there. Starting and staying simple for a while teaches you a few things. First off you learn your gear. This includes the relationship between the pieces, how they work together, what it is best suited for and how you need to manipulate the situation to make it suitable. Adding that next lens or body is a fun distraction that takes away from learning what you really need to. To much at once and you never master any of it. What you may find yourself doing is standing in place questioning which lens you should use. Ultimately wasting time as the moment passes by and then selecting the wrong lens to make the wrong image because you never learned to use one lens. Don't be confused here. I am sure you learned to use the mechanics of one lens. You need to learn to use your equipment with your eyes and mind as well as your hand. A good photograph starts with what the eyes feed the brain and what the brain does with that information while considering what the hands are holding.

So maybe you don't need the Zeiss Ikon 6x9. A 6x6 in hand would be just fine.
Print Your Work
The print is the final expression of an image. Or so someone said. Maybe Adams? Don't quote me on that. Who makes prints today anyway?  Just follow me  I spent thousands of dollars on this photography equipment to show off my work on your cell phone. I pray you have the latest version.

So we use the medium we have to show our photography. That is important too. However It is still important to print your work and see it bigger, see how it reproduces and it is also important to feel it. Yes! feel it! Touch your prints.  I like to print on heavy Canson Infinity papers. My favorites are Baryta which gives me the look and feel of a quality darkroom fibre base print. Rag Photographique is super smooth 100% cotton and retains incredible detail. A recent favorite is Edition Etching Rag. Like Rag Photographique but with a tiny bit of texture. If you order a print from me you may request a paper. I may refuse but probably not I have all three of these to work very well with my images. You may also let me pick. Regardless of what is used I prefer the heavy 310gsm papers. Just keep your greasy fingers off the image area. Touch it, just not to much.

Canson is not the only game in town but find something you like if you print your own. Learn about the printing process and how to match colors consistently and without it being a guessing game. This is an aspect of photography so many seem to be missing out on today. If you are not ready to print on your own then research quality labs. There is a bit to be learned even when sending your images out for printing. 

Sure it costs a few bucks but this is your passion. Follow through and get quality prints made of your work. You will be glad you did.  If you need some help. Message me. I am no commercial lab so as long as it does not turn into a full time job I can get you quality prints on the papers I mentioned. I print on papers up to 22x17.

Canon Pro 1000 and Canson Paper

You Wanna Fight?


This statement seems to stir up some trouble. in this age of Everyone Is A Photographer! What we seem to find is...  Well, not everyone is really a photographer but most seem to have at least a DSLR. It is that DSLR that makes them a photographer. Right? Especially if it is full frame. Just don't ask why they needed full frame.

If I made the statement "A 4x5 Field Camera Is Not An Aerial Photography Camera." I doubt I would draw the fire that I do stating what I did about a DSLR. Those who do real aerial photography would know this and those who do real landscapes would probably realize the complications of a field camera in an aircraft.

In my statement I am not trying to discourage anyone. Honestly I am trying to share some information and make the modern day photographer think, maybe even raise the bar.  I have used a 4x5 field camera for aerial photography from helicopters. I admit some of my best images from 16 years of flying and photographing. I have made landscape images with, dare I say it? A DSLR and even mirrorless. However when I fly I prefer a small more manageable system. In my working days it was a DSLR if I were to do it today I would love to have my Fuji GFX.

So my point is not that you can't. Of course you can. If you are going to specialize and promote yourself as ______. Then maybe find the tools best suited for that _______.

There used to be a higher standard for landscape photographers. A standard the SLR / DSLR was not designed to meet. Sure times have changed. I have seen some great landscape work made with cameras suited for action.
No It's not!
Just because you are there does not make it so.  Youtube and photo groups are Full Of It. Street photographers. The only problem, their not. Sure they grabbed a camera and went on foot patrol. Snapping away at every passerby and architectural delight. 

Is that what street photography has become? At best that is street snapshotography.  The photo accompanying this .... whatever it is. The photo is not street photography. Yes, I was on the street. I love walking the streets and making photographs. I am no street photographer however. This image is a street portrait. I talked to this man and asked. He posed. Even if I were sneaking behind him is this street photography? I would say not. I would not want to disrespect the art of street photography by calling it so. 

Street photography is an art like photojournalism but the story can be left for your interpretation. There should be at least one story there, a contradiction or a contrast. And I don't mean here's a few people crossing at an intersection and the lines are white and the asphalt is dark.  Street photography is not for the lazy and unaware. It takes effort to make images in this genre of photography. 

There is more to it than just capturing snapshots. Most are just doing photography on the street rather than real street photography. Interested in street photography? I know I am but I don't get out to practice it much. So all I have is this street portrait made with my Fuji XPro2 and 35 f1.4 lens.  It's not in any gallery here because all work in the galleries is medium format film or digital.

 If you are interested in a print on Canson Rag Photographique or Baryta feel free to message.

Real street photography is out there. You just need to look for it. Here in rural NC with just a few small cities around it is tough to do. Higher population areas lend themselves to this type of work. 

Main Street USA