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.

September 2022

October 2022

November 2022



























HT1306 - Trading Photographs

Yesterday, I was discussing the difficulty of purchasing art as an investment. In the real world, it rarely works. But trading photographs is another option for acquiring work that is completely outside the constraints of commerce.


HT1307 - Maximizing Color

I saw this as a title in a YouTube video and it caused me to pause and think about why so many photographers seem to feel it's important to shout as loudly as they can. Whether it's maximizing color, making the biggest size prints possible, or turning the world into a hyperbole, it's a fad in photography that bothers me.


HT1308 - Baktober

For 20 years now, I've observed what I characterize as "Baktober." It's the month in the year when I replace my hard drives if they are 3 years or older, and backup everything in my digital life onto multiple drives and locations. If you've never lost any digital assets from equipment failure, consider yourself extremely lucky. Personally, I prefer to just commit myself to a regular backup schedule.


HT1309 - New Is Not Always Better

We live in an age of tremendous sustained technological improvements. To some degree, we've been brainwashed into unquestioning belief that new is better. Perhaps that's true in technology (but not always), but in the process of art making, I see no correlation whatsoever between what's new and what's good.


HT1310 - Zoom vs Megapixels

One of the arguments for having a high megapixel camera is the ability to crop in and still see detail. In my experience, I'd much rather get closer, and if that's not possible I'd rather use a longer lens or zoom in. Better optics and better positioning are always preferred over higher megapixels. In my way of thinking, higher megapixel cameras are always a compromise of last resort.


HT1311 - Empty Magnification

In my protozoa days before I became infatuated with photography, I learned an incredibly important concept in microscopy called "empty magnification." This same principle applies to cameras as much as it does to microscopes.


HT1312 - What Determines Excellence

The total number of images that we've looked at for the LensWork Community Book Projects over the years is just over 36,000. In these 36,000+ images, we've immediately eliminated those with technical flaws — over-sharpened, out of focus, resolution too low. I've kept track. Those eliminated due to technical issues total 17 submissions. That's is. For a photograph to be really outstanding, technical excellence is not enough. It is, however, a universal prerequisite.


HT1313 - The Drudgery Part

In our endorphin-chasing culture, I suppose it's not surprising that there are certain aspects of fine art photography that are a thrill. The fun parts are, well, fun! But my experience in the last 50 years has taught me that the best artwork is not produced in the flush of new romance, but in the diligence and effort sustained in the drudgery parts of the art life.


HT1314 - Yesterday

Elsewhere, I've mentioned the philosophical idea that the term "photographer" is, in practice, a verb. If you are not doing something, you are standing still. And if the art life is about learning, growing, experimenting, what did you do yesterday to learn something, advance your artistic life, try something new? It may be trite to say so, but each day is an opportunity and each day that passes can either be another step in your creative life, or a day that is lost forever.


HT1315 - Media Virtues

Is a novel written by hand with a ballpoint pen more virtuous than one written on a typewriter? Is a novel written on a typewriter more virtuous than one written with a laptop computer? Do the tools of production change the value of the artifact? If not, then why are so many photographers enamored with alternative processes? It must be because they are fun!


HT1316 - Lightroom's Five Color Labels

How do you use Lightroom's color labels? I've developed a bit of a unique strategy for using the color label attributes in Lightroom. I'm glad there are five colors, but I wish there were 10. Fortunately there is a custom label feature that allows us to work with more than the standard 5 colors.


HT1317 - Visual Language

How trilogies make it easier to expand meaning and understanding. They are the adverbs and adjectives of visual language.


HT1318 - Get Me Interested

If you weren't interested in it, you wouldn't have photographed it, whatever "it" happens to be. But just because you are interested in it doesn't mean that any of us are. One of your first challenges as an artist/photographer is to get us interested in what interests you. It's a task of selling, persuading, cajoling, seducing us to your point of view. The only other alternative is to hope for the lucky coincidence.


HT1319 - The Best Lens for Bokeh

For a while, in its heyday, the micro 4/3 format was criticized because there were no really fast lenses that could create lovely bokeh. This is a specious argument based on the assumption that shallow depth of field is strictly a function of aperture. The best lens I've ever used for creating shallow depth of field is my long telephoto zoom used at a very close distance. Absolutely lovely shallow depth of field.


HT1320 - Photography and YouTube

Why do you suppose so many photographers put so much energy into building up a YouTube channel? They may do it for fun, but I suspect most do it for the income it provides them. Why not just sell their photographs?


HT1321 - Technological Progress

What would you do, that is, what changes would take place in your photography is all technological advancements in photography stopped right where they are today. Would your interest in photography wane? Would your direction change?


HT1322 - From Infinite to Commitment

Photography is the process of ratcheting down from Infinite possibilities to a commitment. With camera in hand, we can photograph anything. With a given digital capture or negative, our options are reduced. The print or publication requires a commitment. In truth, isn't this the process of life itself?


HT1323 - Audible Photography

Why do we refer to some photographs as being quiet? Or, we think of quiet light, which is the title of a John Sexton monograph. There are also photographs that are harmonious, cacophonous, brassy, noisy, symphonic, loud, etc. What is this mysterious relationship between the visual and the audible? I've never heard anyone say that a piece of music is photogenic. Photographs can be sensual, but touch is never referred to as colorful, or tonal, or accurate.


HT1324 - My Aging Generation

My backpacking days are over, and so too are those kinds of photographs that I would make while I was backpacking. Not surprising, particularly considering the wear and tear I've put on these old knees over the years. I'm not sure why I'm surprised to see the photography of my fellow generational photographers changing as mine has, but it does surprise me. I see less work, less travel, fewer grand landscapes and more intimate scenes, than I recall seeing from their work of 30 or 40 years ago.


HT1325 - Content, Content, Content

The invention of the Kindle e-reader has demonstrated the separation between the story and the medium. In common language, we say we read a book, but in truth we read a story, and as the Kindle reader has demonstrated, that story can be delivered via a book, or an electronic device, or even via an audio recording. There is an exact parallel in photography.


HT1326 - Gather or Express

It seems to me that there are two fundamental uses for a camera/photography: We can gather or we can disperse. It's curious how these two actions occur in opposite directions. Gathering draws toward us; expression sends out. How do you approach your art life? Is it primarily a process of gathering, collecting, amassing, hoarding? Or do you see your art life as one of exhalation, dispersion, sending forth, letting go?


HT1327 - Photography and the Idealized World

Photography's greatest strength is that it can show us what is. There is a truthfulness inherent in photography - - or at least as objective as is possible. Have you noticed how much of today's technology is targeted at idealizing the world rather than revealing it? Photoshop and Lightroom are all about "improving" the subject, be it landscapes or people. Your model has a pimple? No problem. Your landscape is hazy? No problem. What ever happened to showing us what is rather than what we'd like it to be?


HT1328 - Blossoms and Weeds

Photographs of lovely flower blossoms are common, even universal. I find it fascinating that the same cannot be said for weeds. Why is it that so many photographers are drawn to blossoms put no one to weeds? Is it possible that there is confusion in the art process between photographing a lovely object and, on the other hand, making a lovely photograph of an object that may not itself be lovely?


HT1329 - Learning Never Stops

This week, Adobe updated Photoshop and Lightroom with some major new features. And just when I was feeling comfortable with my workflow and muscle memory, I have new techniques to learn and old habits to reconsider/update.


HT1330 - An Assemblage of Parts

Looking at a photograph is a complex thing, and part of what makes it so complex is that we don't look at a photograph holistically. We can't. Our eyes scan the surface of the photograph and then we mentally assemble from those parts our understanding and interpretation of the image. A similar but fundamentally different assemblage takes place with a group of photographs.


HT1331 - Should I Upgrade My Camera?

Sony has just introduced a new high megapixel camera, the A7RV. The specs and reviews looks spectacular. Should I jump brands and upgrade? Here's a few thoughts.


HT1332 - The Power of Versatility

The pen is an amazing instrument. With the pen you can write a grocery list, a poem, a novel, a letter, a memoir. The same idea applies to cameras. With a camera you can make a snapshot, a visual document, tell a story, or create a mood. But no one would praise a pen because you could use it to write a word, any more than using a camera to make a picture is its virtue. It's what gets communicated that makes these tools so valuable in their versatility.


HT1333 - Trilogies 2022 and Gear

Just for fun, here's some observations from the metadata of the images that were submitted for Trilogies 2022. Also a comparison between the images that were submitted and the images that were selected for publication.


HT1334 - What's Missing

We photographers push the technology as hard as we can. We strived for more detail, more colors, more of everything. But if those extras are missing from our images, do we really think the viewer will know this, or even notice? What do they notice? Doesn't it make sense that that should be where we invest or creative energy?


HT1335 - The Point

I was just reviewing a book, a monograph, that was recently published. It was an eclectic collection of 120 images. I found myself searching for the connection between this collection of images and eventually found one. The only thing that connected all these images together was that they had been produced by the same photographer. So what was the purpose of the book?


HT1336 - That Lucky Shot

Every one of us has produced that lucky shot. Maybe it was that everything we planned came together at the right instant, or, more likely, everything came together without us planning it at all. We got lucky! Click, and a masterpiece is ours. But, the more I work with groups of images the less luck has anything to do with my success or failure.