Oct 28 2010

The morning announcements…

Hey, there are a few things going on right now that I wanted to bring to your attention, so here are the morning announcements for today, October 28, 2010.

In case you missed my postings on Facebook and Twitter, I’ve added several new images that you can order as prints, including a popular request, “Can We Talk?” and the newest one, “Painted River.” Simply click the Order Prints link here or in the top navigation for the site to check them out and to place your order. They make great Christmas gifts :-)

Also, the results from my self-assignment to shoot black and white photographs of the fall season in the Smoky Mountains are up on Flickr if you’d like to check them out.

Oh, and one other thing… I wrote a book.

Way back in July, I wrote a guest post on Sabrina Henry’s blog on doubt and success. In it, I mentioned that partly because of that particular success, I was working on something new—something special—and that I couldn’t talk about it until it was finalized. Well, now I can.

Today, David duChemin’s Craft & Vision web site has published my first ebook, Close to Home: Finding Great Photographs in Your Own Back Yard.

Close to Home eBook

This book is for everyone who is convinced they need to travel to exotic places to find great photographs; for everyone who wants to create something out of the ordinary right at home. It’s written to help you take a step back from your normal, everyday—dare I say, boring—surroundings and find the extraordinary photographs in your city, town, and neighborhood. As I say in the book, photography is about life—and life is all around you.

Of course, no book is ever exclusively the author’s doing and I do have some people I am very grateful to for their help in making this a reality. Of course, my thanks to David duChemin and Corwin Hiebert for giving me the opportunity and, along with the Craft & Vision team, for shepherding this project—and this author—through the publishing process. Also, many thanks to Ray Ketcham, Sabrina Henry, Eli Reinholdtsen, and Jeffrey Fielding for reviewing early versions of the book and providing thoughtful and insightful feedback. Finally, my eternal gratitude to my wife, JoEllen, without whom this book would have not been possible. For nearly 30 years, she has prompted and prodded and cajoled me to get my photographs out into the world and I finally took her advice. Thank you for believing in me, even when I didn’t.

Needless to say, I am thrilled at the opportunity to get this out there; to help other photographers discover how they can find terrific images in their own neighborhoods and towns, and to perhaps inspire everyone to look a little closer at your own back yard. I hope you find it useful. Feel free to leave your feedback on the Craft & Vision web site and let me know what you think. You can also email your questions and comments to closetohome@thelightwithout.com.

Until 11:59pm PST November 1, 2010, if you use the promotional code HOME4 when you checkout, you can have the PDF version of Close to Home for only $4 OR use the code HOME20 to get 20% off when you buy 5 or more PDF ebooks from the Craft & Vision collection.

Oct 14 2010

A lesson in light… and color

So, my self-assignment was to shoot the fall season in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in black and white; to focus on line and form and luminance, rather than the “vulgar colors.” I did, and I got some pretty cool stuff, which I’ve posted on Flickr. But the shot—the one I went down there for—wasn’t in black and white.

Painted River

At the risk of being overly dramatic… whoa.

That’s how I felt when I saw this. I’m pretty sure it’s only been a couple other times I’ve been this excited about a photograph I made. I know that sounds a bit pompous, but I mean only that I really love this photograph. Nature provided everything you see; I just needed to be there to see it and save it for you.

The thing is, I probably wouldn’t have made this photograph without embarking on the black and white self-assignment. As I said, I did spent quite a bit of time visualizing and photographing in black and white, despite the abundance of color around me. It forced me to pay attention to tone and luminance and contrast, instead of only focusing on color. It made me look at the world a little differently for a while; to take my own advice to look past the obvious subjects and dig a little deeper.

Sometimes I forced it and tried to make a good black and white photograph out of a subject that was clearly better in color, and maybe it was only because I knew I’d still have the color shot if I wanted it later. But when I slowed down and stopped thinking about the objects that were in front of me, I started paying attention to photographs. I shifted my thinking from photographs of the fall color to photographs about the fall color, and that’s how I found this one.

I hope you like it as much as I do.

Oct 5 2010

“Color photography is vulgar”

Well, I don’t necessarily think so, but Walker Evans did. So did many other photographers of his day, including Henri Cartier-Bresson and Paul Strand. They felt that it required a greater effort to visualize a black and white photograph from the color world around us and therefore it should be more elevated in the world of art than color photography. Cartier-Bresson, in particular, felt that color was just too much to try to control along with everything else he was working toward in his photographs.

Color vs. Black and White

Why do I bring this up? I’ve been reading a bit about these photographers—the giants on whose shoulders we stand—to see if I can delve deeper into understanding what it is I want to try to do with photography… and why. I’ve felt a bit flat lately because of a limited amount of time to practice, as well as a feeling that I’ve hit a plateau. I think there’s more to explore on this particular plateau, but it also feels like I need to shake things up a little—stir the paint, as David duChemin calls it—and I think it involves subtracting color from the equation.

So here’s the plan. I am embarking again on an experiment, only for a week this time, but something I think will certainly challenge me. Next week, JoEllen and I are taking her mother  (and her Schnauzer!) to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for a little down time. Of course, the Smokies in October is known for its varied and spectacular fall color, probably second only to Vermont as “the” place to go. A color photographer’s dream.

You’ve probably guessed it. I’m going to shoot it entirely in black and white.

Now maybe it’s the double hit of Mexican Coke talkin’, but no matter how tempting it will be to try the classic fall color shot of the Primitive Baptist Church in Cades Cove from Rich Mountain Road, I’ll be leaving it for another trip. Of course, I’m shooting digital, so the resulting files will be color, but I will be changing my LCD to display only black and white previews. I will go through all of the motions of pre-visualization, tone placement, etc. as if I were shooting black and white film.

Why not just shoot film? Two reasons, really. One, because I value the control I have in the digital darkroom to create the image I had in mind (and because my chemical darkroom disappeared long ago). Secondly, because I no longer own a camera that uses film and I’m not inclined to buy one to use only for a week. Mostly though, and despite its real advantages in some cases, I’ve left film behind for now. It’s just not my thing any more. (But hey, who knows, someday?)

So there it is. Fall color in black and white. I’ll post here and to Flickr when I can to let you know how things are progressing. I hope you enjoy the ride.