Here's a thought

The most recent three commentaries are available below.
The entire collection (including all previous episodes)
is available to members of LensWork Online.

August 2022

September 2022

October 2022





















HT1276 - Another Reason for a Two-camera Strategy

Sometimes, you have to wait for the light, or wait for the clouds, or wait for the right wave. And while you are waiting, there your camera sits on the tripod, unavailable to you for another shot. This is another reason why I like a two-camera strategy: I can use the second camera to make images while the first camera waits on the tripod for the perfect conditions.


HT1277 - Basecamps

Perhaps one of the most valuable lessons that I use with regularity in my photography was actually learned from my youthful experiences as a backpacker. This led to a strategy I've used ever since, that is, establishing a longer-term base camp and getting to know one place well rather than just passing through places without getting to know them.


HT1278 - Camera Bags

A relatively frequent question that I get from readers is about my camera bag. Everybody has their own strategies and opinions, and for whatever it might be worth, here's mine.


HT1279 - A Book Is a Commercial Entity

I don't think I've ever known a photographer who didn't secretly wish that someone would step up and publish a book of their work. But why? A book is a commercial entity, only remotely connected to an aesthetic object. Handmade artist books are an exception, but they're almost devoid of any commercial aspect.


HT1280 - Tourist Destinations

I know I'm odd man out when it comes to tourist destinations, but I avoid them like the plague. I know so many photographers who race off to the national parks and the hot tourist locations, but my experience has shown that in those places I most frequently either make cliche images or become creatively frustrated because of the crowds. Call me antisocial, but I'd much rather photograph down a dirt road that sees only two cars a day, and one of them mine.


HT1281 - The Role of the Artist

One of the plagues of art here in the 21st century is the inversion of the role of the artist. Too many now want the artist to perform to their satisfaction — the ubiquitous thumbs up, thumbs down attitude. It's as though the artists are supposed to be some sort of trained monkeys that entertain the audience in exchange for treats.


HT1282 - Radically Altering Scale

I've always been fascinated with the way that photography radically alters the scale of a subject. We routinely make landscapes that reduce thousands of acres it into an 8x10" print. Lots of pictures are closer to real life scale. But other than pictures of flowers, I rarely see images that radically increase scale. The first photograph I ever sold was a 16x20" print made of a mushroom that was about an inch tall.


HT1283 - Preserving Momentum

It can be so easy to store the camera equipment away until the next photography trip only to discover that that next trip is much farther into the future than you might guess. Set another way, it's so easy to lose photographic momentum because it's not a requirement in our life, at least not like breathing and eating. Developing a strategy that preserves momentum can be critically important.


HT1284 - Artists at the Core

There are so many different ways to be a photographer, all of them have their appeal and fans. The group that fascinates me the most are those who just happen to use a camera in their artmaking efforts, but would be artists in a different medium of somehow photography was denied to them.


HT1285 - Electric Cars

I'm not much of a political creature, but I did see an article the other day that California, Washington, and Virginia are working on legislation that will ban the sale of gas-powered cars starting in 2035. I wonder what the effects of this will be on landscape photographers?


HT1286 - Ansel Adams Was Wrong

One of the great quotes from Master Adams is, "There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept." I disagree. There is something worse — a fuzzy image of a fuzzy concept. And worse than that is an image divorced from any concept whatsoever. If there isn't a thought behind an image, it's only an empty vessel.


HT1287 - Rebecca West

One of my favorite quotes if from novelist Rebecca West: "A copy of the universe is not what is required of art; one of the damned things is ample."


HT1288 - Ten Favorite Quotes

Since I've been using some of my favorite quotes the last couple of days, why not one more day? Here are 10 of my favorite art quotes out of the hundreds I've collected over the years. Hope you enjoy and maybe fine an inspiration or two.


HT1289 - Once Again, the Pace of History Amazes

Do you realize that 100 years ago, [well, technically 105 years ago when Stieglitz published issue #48 — the final issue — of Camera Work] high quality photography publications used tipped-in photogravure prints? It would be another 30 years before offset lithography was used in state-of-the art books like Edward Weston's My Camera on Point Lobos, another 60 years before Ansel Adams' Yosemite and the Range of Light used duotones. Today, we can share our work instantly via the Internet to people all over the world. How is this not the best time in the history of photography to be a photographer?


HT1290 - Looking at Images

One of my favorite books about photography is that classic by John Szarkowski titled, Looking at Photographs. This was the book that inspired my efforts to write Looking at Images, now long sold out. I'm continuing this theme, however, in the series of audio commentaries, Looking at Images, that is part of LensWork Online.


HT1291 - Options Galore

For the first 30 years I was a photographer, I basically had one option: a black and white print. That's it! That's all I could make for 30 years. Think of the options we now have available; b/w, color, selective color, panorama, jigsaw, multi-image layer, focus stack, and recombinant images. Wow.


HT1292 - Battery Grip for Stability

The other day I was reading a blog in which the photographer proposed that using a battery grip increased the stability of his handheld shots, including those that used image stabilization. I have a battery grip, but I've only used it on rare occasions when I needed the extra battery capacity. I'll try it for a while to see if my images are visibly sharper and let you know.


HT1293 - Critical Composition

In my view camera days, critical composition in the field was essential. The indispensable tool for those kinds of images was my geared tripod head that allowed me to position the camera with precision. I used that same geared tripod head for a while in my digital photography, but then I realized an equally valid technique was to simply zoom out a few millimeters so that I had room to crop to the critical composition in Photoshop or Lightroom. I sold my geared head, and haven't missed it yet.


HT1294 - Sunglasses

I wear sunglasses when I'm out photographing, particularly in the desert where squinting all day can be uncomfortable. Oddly enough, sunglasses present two difficulties for photographers. Polarized sunglasses can interfere with viewing the camera's LCD screen. Blue-blocker tinted sunglasses can change the way a scene looks.


HT1295 - High Frequency Images

The higher the frequency of detail, the more important a compositional structure becomes. If the compositional components don't dominate the image, the chaos will make the image confusing.


HT1296 - The Importance of Polarizers

I used to be a big fan of Cokin filters. I used one filter or another on more than half of my images. But I can now do all of that with processing in software. The only filter I now use with regularity is a Polarizer. What it does cannot be accomplished with software.


HT1297 - Dinner Guests

If you could invite anyone from photographic history to dinner, who would that be? Who would you love to have the opportunity to "shoot the photographic breeze" with? Since this is a fun thought experiment that can never come to pass, have you at least sought out what they wrote about that was preserved for out benefit?


HT1298 - Focus Stacking

This last week I was involved in a project that had me photographing small objects at close distance. In the past, this was a serious challenge, especially if you wanted a large depth of field to get everything in focus from near to far. I used focus stacking in my camera and it worked flawlessly. What a door-opening technique.


HT1299 - The Comfortably Incomplete

There's no place in the art life more comfortable than in the middle of an unfinished project. Because you're engaged in a project, you have a feeling of being involved, active, working. But the fact that it's unfinished means that it can't be criticized, is open to myriads of possibilities, and there is more fun to be had just around the corner. But ultimately, this comfort level in mid-project is deadly to your artistic growth.


HT1300 - Existing in the Background

When we listen to music, we can do so with attention and our full consciousness, or it can play in the background as filler. The same can be said of photography. These are two completely different experiences. It's also one of the chief advantages of books over wall art.


HT1301 - Drama

Drama is the basis for so much in art. Good vs evil. Joseph Campbell's hero without a face. Think of all the paintings that are about conflict and resolution. Drama is so pervasive in art, but almost entirely lacking from photography. Why is that?


HT1302 - The Intangibles

As technology has improved over the last twenty years or so, it's become possible to produce replicas of fine art photography originals that are visually indistinguishable from their originals. What's the difference?


HT1303 - Composing, One Step at a Time

I had a particularly interesting experience photographing in the woods. I knew the spot was just gorgeous, but I was having a difficult time composing a photograph that encapsulated the feelings I was having. I decided to just walk around a bit, and observed that with every step the forest changed. The relationship of trees in three dimension modified the view with every step. And then, quite by accident, I took a step and found the perfect composition.


HT1304 - Jaded by Familiarity

What is cliché to me might be exotic to you. I've been photographing in the Western landscape so long that I often drive by subjects because they seem trivial. But that's because I live here!


HT1305 - Owning a Photograph Is an Act of Consumption

One of the chief arguments for purchasing artwork is that it functions as an investment. With the passage of time, the value of the artwork will increase and ultimately justify your purchasing decision, at least based on economics. But does this really work out in the real world?