Monday, September 29

Pebble Beach

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Sitting on the patio... Rita's got a margarita. Me? A gin and tonic. There's a gentle breeze blowing around the 68 degree air. Not bad... no... not bad at all.

Sunday, September 28

The Professional's Challenge


NOTE: Inspired by a note on the terrific, I was moved to expand this essay from a comment I posted on Jim Talkington's blogzine.


At an early career turning point I had the choice of following the road marked “Professional Photographer.” Didn’t because it simply looked too steep, twisty, and poorly marked. Put simply, it seemed too damned hard. So for fifty years I’ve picked the low hanging fruit that amateurs get to pluck. And they have been sweet. Photography’s given me consolation, perspective, and an alternative outlet for my passions, ideas, and emotions.

But while I don’t regret my choice, I do admire just how hard successful commercial photographers in every one of the fields work for their living. Yes there are more competitors than ever. And yes technical competency is coming at a younger age when those youngsters lack family responsibilities and are stoked with an enthusiasm to work a hundred hours on projects that only pay for ten. The young wolves have always challenged the pack leaders - but it does seem as if they are coming on in larger hoards, each anxious to work for a Happy Meal at MacD’s with enough left over to buy a new lens. Subsidized by parents, they have little sense of overhead, depreciation, or profits … But many seem fixed with the edgy eye that editors, art directors, designers, brides, and gallery owners find the passion du jour.

And since they share the generational culture that buyers want to attract/distract - what they lack in capital equipment can frequently be overwhelmed by a cultural vocabulary. It’s useful to speak in the voice and language of your market.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a generational divide in the tastes of those who pull the trigger on purchases. A generation of young buyers who have been raised within a thick-walled paradigm which reflects back their self worth at ever angle… is hard for folks to crack when they are standing outside of that generational bubble.

But… all is not grim for the professional who can escape the tractor beam of the commodity force which seems to pull prices down as equipment, overhead, and life costs soar. Never before has marketing literacy been so important to commercial photographers. If price is the opiate of the new photographer, brand is its cure.

How many community photographers, for example, are Rotary members? Lions? Sertoma? Elks? How many have joined the Chambers of Commerce? How many attend every mixer and small business meeting? How many volunteer for arts organizations? For non-profits? How many have donations in every charity fund raising auction? How many hang out at the local coffee shops in the early AM where everyone knows your name? How many warm calls do you make a week? How many cards do you hand out daily? Where? I can think of a half dozen guerilla marketing techniques that are invaluable to advertising but cost nothing except sweat equity. How many do you know? Have you ever heard of guerilla marketing? Punk marketing? Why not?

How do you use free media? What is it? If you don't know, you are NOT a professional. And now I'm not just thinking of the community professional. Speaking of professional - what professional meetings do you attend? Are most of them, or all of them in your profession? WRONG! You will meet very few buyers at a seminar on "The New Wedding Techniques," or - "Follow Focus For Sports Photographers." Simple question, are you building technique or market with your spare time? What is your balance? What must it be to survive?

Have you Googled brand building? Read any books? Does the whole thing make your eyes glaze? Then you either need to find a job working for someone who has clear eyes, or sell the cameras to pay for those accounting, economic, and science credits you should have taken to get you into another career.

To the degree that the commercial photographer has been engaged over his/her years in building brand and product differentiation: To the degree that it’s been reinforced with strategic networking techniques: Then this appears to be a very good time to be a pro.

Although I still won’t swap my amateur standing with any of you.

Next October


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I'm sitting here on the last Sunday morning in September hearing the hourglass sand drop away. It's flowing inexorably toward October. So my fingers work to remember the future. Each time we wish that this time we'll hold this glory forever. Each time we hope that it all won't die. Each time it does.

We are the only species in history who expect that we are entitled to a Fall, and a climate, that never changes.

Fall would be the finest time of year except... it lacks a happy ending.


Here's the virgin Middlebury, Vermont image from my FlashCard... Comments?

Saturday, September 27


So? Does This Do It?

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How to break out of the kid portrait mold, eh? How to push what I can do to a limit? And push it into a character study that leaves us with the essence of boy? If there's no essence left, well I've merely done craft all over this frame. Craft is good, but it stops right at art's door. Art tumbles on through. It leaves us not so much distracted by the image but thinking or feeling about something behind it.

Hey, I admire kid portrait photographers. It's a hard craft. But here I wanted to go after, not so much this boy, but instead to kind of find boyishness. Boyhood. And do it from a postage stamp head-n-shoulders composition that was as close as I could get.

Does it happen? For me, yeah. For you?


Here's the virgin image directly from the FlashCard. Comments? Should I have left it alone?

Thursday, September 25

Draw Boy

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So what's voice about when it comes to art photography? How's it differ from style? If an image needs to say something to the viewer... If it needs to whisper an emotion or an idea, then it's got to speak in a voice right? Like this image speaks in my voice. You can hear it can't you? Or is voice the style that I bring to the way I present this boy to you? I've got to think on this. Anybody got an idea how an artist's voice differs from his style? Hulp!


And here my friends is the virgin image of Draw Boy directly from my Flash Card. Think at me, okay?

Tuesday, September 23


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Voice lessons... I take them every day. Like a lot of you who are photographers, I sort of frame things around me. It's a dorky habit, but useful when you want to see stuff through a range finder. Problem is, you look through the range finder long enough and you feel like your looking through it even when you're not.

After a while though you stop looking at what you are looking at. Say what? I mean you start looking at things as if they are about something different. It's like someone learning a new language. Sooner or later the breakthrough comes and your dreams are now in that tongue. That voice. And it's what happens to most artists. They see things and wonder about them. In frames. First you wonder what they are saying, and then you wonder what you might say with them. Not what they say... but what they might say.

You find your voice. But like a singer, each day you exercise. I find that the city does that. All the time it gives me voice lessons... Like Scooter here.

See his expression? That wonderful look of comfort and confidence. No fear. No worry. All boy-to-man in a brightening light, still colored with the vapors and innocence of kid-world. What a moment, eh? No... not necessarily this specific moment, no... that last moment ... or first moment... between then and now. And here's how I see it... in my voice.


BTW... want to see the virgin image from my FlashCard? Well here. Enjoy.

Monday, September 22


Reading the financial pages and wondering. Does anyone else share my thoughts that the wold is holding its breath?

Sunday, September 21

Gamin In The City

Made For Each Other

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Sometimes I seem to notice that even the most majestic image is background to something else that's swirling around in my mind. Of course I don't know what. But that's what I love about the artistic process. It mixes epiphany with discovery. The first capture creates a question, a puzzle which may stay with me for a year or more. Oh, not top-of-mind, but just nagging like a quietly yipping puppy just beneath my level of total consciousness.

That was the case here as this capture of 42nd street in New York which from the moment I framed it seemed to be part of a story arc. So when I saw this beautiful child at a street festival.... "CLICK"!

Made for each other...


Here are the two most significant components of Gamin In The City. The first is 42nd Street in New York taken on an August afternoon.
The second was taken at the Mushroom Festival in Kennet Square, Chester County, PA a month later. It occurred to me as I took the second picture that it would be a perfect compliment to my New York street series. I tried to replicate the back light as much as possible and used a similar ISO (200).

However the first image was taken through my 10-22mm (f3.5-4.5), and the second through my new 70-300mm, So I made every effort at the time of the second image capture so that they would seamlessly flow into the depth of field created by the ultra-wide, while reinforcing a certain mystical quality with repsect to perspective. Something which the viewer would subliminally notice.

Thursday, September 18


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There's an impulse among many galleries to ignore the surface of an image. I think that's a good thing. For most of photography's life, the surface was the only thing anyone ever examined. Critics judged technique and then aesthetics. You know, is the image adequately exposed? Focused? Sharp? Are the colors effective? What about the composition? How does the image deal with form? Shape? Texture?

But now, because the keepers of the gallery gates want to slash a hole through the plane and into the realm of curiosity or meaning beyond... well, now we have to work harder. Photographic artists are asked to ignite a thought or a feeling... or both. Darn... it's so easy to just light it well, pose it properly and snap the shutter. What ever happened to the good old days? Huh?


Here's the virgin image from my FlashCard... Wuddaya think?

Monday, September 15

Mushroom Guy

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Hmmm.... howzabout another street shot with the new 70-300mm Canon from the Mushroom Festival in Chester County's Kennett Square. It's an annual two day event. The Saturday was rained out so Sunday it looked like every family in Philadelphia came out to mushroom country. There were tens of thousands - um - for my new lens to pick among.

Now for my wonder. As you can see I've posted the virgin image from my FlashCard. I like the character of this terrific guy who ran a stand that sold collector licenses. I asked his permission to take the picture. But the image is a few levels away from the camera shutter's moment.

And here's my wonder... this virgin photo on the lower right can be compared to the final image up on the left. It's said that people do not want creativity debunked. They say that "explaining what you do diminishes what you do." It's argued that when people look at the craft, they're distracted by the scenery and don't watch the play.

So... I really want to know: does that make sense? Are you more interested in the mechanics, or the way the engine works?

Sunday, September 14

New Lens.... YIPPIE!

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On June 1st, Rita and I were married 40 years. We agreed, "No Gifts!" And you know that the man who follows an agreement like that is terminally goofy, and certainly not married forty years. So I gave her a couple of gee-gaws of the sparkling AND toy flavors. Well, that of course allowed me to play the guilt card which can be expensive to purchase but gosh it's fun to play. Unfortunately she cheated me out of any opportunity when recently she surprised me by paying for a new Canon 70-300mm which I'd been borrowing from my friend Steve (he's the guy I've pictured at the helm of a sailboat... remember?)

Now of course I wanted the thing, but since I had access to Steve's generosity, well I really didn't need it (as if we 'need' any of this stuff, right?). But not to worry, I have not returned the red, white and black Canon box (s) filled with lens, lens shade and soft pouch carrying case. Yeah, I did spring for the polarizing filter but hey, a man's gotta do.... And instead of working on ImageFiction images, I've used my spare time to diddle with the new thing.

(1) I am a wide-angle man. That's the way the world looks to me. So of course I have no desire of any sort for a zoom lens that's an effective 450mm when it's fully cranked out.
(2) The thing's got two image stabilizer mechanisms built in. Which only reinforces the problems that guy like me who has a phobia about using tripods will have with this thing.
(3) I carry my stuff in an old canvas army ammunition bag. It's inobtrusive so it doesn't attract attention when I'm in candid-photog mode, plus it doesn't screech out to bad guys.... "STEAL THIS!" Which means there is just enough room inside for my camera, some sponge padding, an additional lens and the cards/cleaners/filters/blowers and a tiny plastic poncho which let me work light. This 70-300mm lens weighs about as much as my 40D and when I carry it, there's no room left in the bag for my camera.

But ... but.... OMG is it S H A R P ! And full of contrast throughout most of its apertures and focal length (s). And the image stabilizers work. I can hand hold it at 1/30 cranked full out! Yeah, that's 1/30 of a second at an effective 35mm focal length of 450mm!!!!!! I even got decent results at 1/15th! WHOA!

Now I'm sure a lot of you are wondering, "Ted, given the post processing soup which you pour over your images, why do you care about razor sharpness?" BECAUSE I CAN! And because I want everything I can get in my virgin image, I don't want to compromise an idea or feeling any more than I have to with equipment limitations.

So... as you can see from the street portrait of a woman at The Mushroom Festival (more on that later) I've posted up above.... There was a lot to work with. How much? Well, here's the virgin image straight from my FlashCard, you be the judge. BTW, notice that she was in FULL sunlight on a late summer afternoon. Note that even in the virgin image that neither the shadows nor the highlights are blocked or blown.

Saturday, September 6


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Art has to be something more than a perpetually running nostalgia machine. Sometimes it's got to go places that weren't where our memories are.

Here's what I mean.

Have you ever noticed that an abrupt odor... a scent... transports you back to a perfect journey into the past? So many images, particularly photographic based images, rely upon us feeling as if we've been there, or could have been there. And it's by stringing together those common pieces of memory that the artist makes us go, "Wow!" And it happens even if we've never actually been there, but we agree to suspend disbelief and agree that, well, we could have been. The artist plays upon our nostalgia for somewhere we never were.

This time I want to not do that.

Instead I want to take you into a design made up of people... going round and round, like a corkscrew into somewhere below. I want it to be all strangeness except for the movement. The sense of tight spaces. The feeling of moving from light to dark. I want to take you into a tunnel from day to a place that doesn't sleep.
In the city that doesn't either.


Here's the virgin image directly from the card of my new Canon 40D.