Two Takes

I’m not sure how well this post is going to go over but I thought I would give it a go. I think this topic is important, but I’m wrong about 77% of the time. Approximately. Now lets forget the fact I’m shooting on the beach in Laguna, which isn’t my favorite place in terms of subject matter. I arrived in Laguna right at sunset and was so excited about the light that I ran around like a crazy person. I was almost going to shoot some self-portrait reflection when I looked down from parking lot level and noticed a woman by the water’s edge. This particular woman had a cat on her back. The cat, obviously, wasn’t real happy about being there and was consequently trying to climb off this woman’s back. It looked interesting, so I ran through the crowd of out-of-towners wearing board shots and tank tops in the 50 degree weather. (I know you WANT it to be warm but it’s not, and the water is ice cold damnit. Googling this stuff can save you some pain.)

These images you see below were shot within seconds of one another.I think one of these images is more modern than the other, and I also think one of these images is better than the other. Here’s why.

This image is what I would consider a “modern” or 2013 style image. I’m using a 1.4 lens at 1.4 even when there is plenty of light to use a smaller aperture. We live in the age of the 1.2 or even the .9 lens, and it appears as if a lot of folks using these lenses are using them at these apertures ALL THE TIME. One look at modern photojournalism is enough to tell me that. In that case it’s the 35mm 1.4 and the 50mm 1.2 Canon that seem to dominate the landscape. No doubt, these are impressive optics, but there is more to life than a soft or “blown out” background. Now in this particular case I’m focusing on the couple in the foreground, with the rest of the humans adding to the layering of the background. Even at 1.4 you can still see location, landscape, etc, and perhaps if the moment in the foreground, the couple, was more specific I would like this photograph more, but it’s not.

This photograph to me is less “modern” but more interesting. This image was shot about f5.6 and has a lot more information to deal with, which means, at least in my normally wrong opinion, it requires the viewer to spend more time with it, which in the age of ZERO attention span is a good thing. Now it works for me for several reason. First, the light is good. Second, the layering is good. Also, the guys third from the left and second from the right are both looking back in my direction, which gives me the human connection I’m looking for. This photograph also gives me more detail about the location and landscape and also informs me that every single person in the image is male, which I can’t explain entirely and don’t know if that tells me something or if it is just a coincidence.

Now, before you go complaining about NOT seeing the cat photograph, don’t get yourself in a tizzy. I’m going to post ONE of these images again, in context with the rest of what I shot in those precious few moments, so don’t get estranged on me. Look, I like a fast lens as much as the next gal, but I’ve never understood the concept of wide open all the time. Remember, as a documentary photographer your goal is to document, education, inform and influence, and sometimes that requires a lot more than 1.4.

Magazine x 2


I love magazines. I don’t actually read them, or subscribe to them, but when I hold them in my hand it’s nothing but love. Sometimes if I’m facing a long flight on an airline with no inflight entertainment I’ll buy an Economist, catch up on the world, but that is about it. Just listen to how we describe these little jewels. “Magazines, periodicals, glossies, or serials are publications that are printed with ink on paper, and generally published on a regular schedule and containing a variety of content.” Damn, what’s not to like?
Now I can make my own, and people this is a grand experience, one that SCREAMS for collaboration. In my Blurb travels I’m continually amazed at how little collaboration I see. I keep crossing my fingers, hoping the world would appear more as an open door rather than a locked bunker. Perhaps the magazine will set us free?
This little film is about the same work, in the same format, but with a very different look and feel. Done simply to show you how basic design changes will greatly impact the look, feel and potential success of your project. My advice, venture forth.



Nine Lives

Old School, 20-dupe slides

I’m not sure who this post if for. Young photographer maybe. Old photographer maybe. Curious photographer? I don’t know. But, I was cleaning out my office the other day, something I find intensely satisfying, and began to uncover A LOT of strange things. Odds and ends. Tidbits. Scraps. Failings. Creative tailings. One of the things that began to emerge was a variety of things all related to the same work. I did the project in Sicily. I like it. It’s one of the things I hope I’m never done with because I can’t imagine not wanting to go back to Sicily or not wanting to keep working on this piece. However, I have enough images where I can say, “I’ve got a project here.”

My second ever Blurb book and first on Sicily. Also the best selling Blurb book I’ve done.
I realized what I had, in the pile of debris from my office was an assortment of portfolios all relating to the exact same work. At first I thought, “Jesus, what was I thinking?” but after deeper consideration I realized these portfolios, in all their incarnations, served a variety of uses and purpose. And I figured that a lot of other photographers probably did the same.

5×7 print box, perhaps my all time favorite way of showing images.
I’m not sure which of these portfolios came first. Could have been the slides, or the small, initial prints, but I have to say, this small box is perhaps my favorite. I do this with much of the work I do. I do a shoot, a real shoot, like a long-term project shoot then I come home, edit. Then, I print the best few images in small size, either 5×7 or 4×6. Those go in a small box like this. That’s it. I keep doing this. Eventually, that little box is full and I’ve got a good start on the project, book, essay, etc.

Inkjet prints with metal, spiral bind.
I think I used this little baby at a portfolio review. Made some inkjet prints, not great ones by any stretch, then bound them in sequence to show at a portfolio review. It has been YEARS since I’ve done a review so I can’t remember all the details.

Camera Arts and Black & White Magazine
The work was also published at least twice, once in Camera Arts Magazine and once in Black and White Magazine. These too became part of the show process that I added in for this work. At the same type portfolio reviews I would first show them the work, then see if they were really looking or paying attention. Then, depending, I would bust out the publications and say something like “Oh ya, these guys ran this work,” very casually. For some reason this old idea still holds water for some folks, the idea that a magazine would run your work. It’s the old adage, “Well, if they found something interesting then maybe I should to.” I’ve never believed in this, simply because of the work I’ve seen published and knowing some of the reasons WHY it was published. But, alas, I was not immune to playing that game.

A second Blurb book that just wasn’t good. But, I made it anyway.
So over the years I kept coming back to this work and making new books of the material. I’m not sure why but I did. Some worked, others didn’t. But, those that didn’t taught me some good lessons. Printing, cover choice, typography, design, etc.

Another incarnation of the book that was too expensive and took to long.
You might be wondering if this kind of thing is excessive. I don’t know. Maybe. Or maybe not. Maybe ultimately it will lead to the “mega-book” or mega-portfolio.” I’ve not done anything quite so extensive with work since this time, and I think I’ve done work that is equal to or greater than this work.

Large print box, 13×19 prints.
I think this final installment is important. The large print box. These prints are large enough and expensive enough to really make you think before hitting “print,” which means I really had to edit before I hit the button, something I think is being lost in the modern photo-world. I love editing. Not saying I’m good at it, but I do like it. A powerful, talented editor can take a semi-lame duck and turn it into a nicely marinated, slightly crisp on the outside, duck dish of dishes. I know cause I’ve had it happen.
My point with all this. Don’t know. Just thought it was an interesting find.