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.

October 2022

November 2022

December 2022















HT1337 -The Element of Surprise

From time to time, I find myself looking at a photograph and really enjoying it immensely, under the assumption that I'm seeing all there is to see. Then much to my surprise, I discover some hidden detail: there is a person! some animal! an unexpected element that is like finding Waldo in the crowd. And suddenly I'm hooked, scanning the entire photograph for other hidden elements.


HT1338 - What Percentage Get Paid?

Life today provides us with lots of entertaining hobbies that can occupy our time: sports, fishing, golf, music, theater and movies, poetry, literature, and photography. And I'm not talking about consuming these things but rather participating. We can participate in a sport, play a musical instrument, act in a local theater production, write haiku, try our hand to Great America novel, or produce fine art photographs. I wonder how many people who do these things get paid for doing them?


HT1339 - Living with Depth

In normal consciousness, we experience the world at the speed of life. One of photography's best attributes is that it allows us to slow down the speed of life and examine our world in greater depth. When we allow ourselves to take the time to really look, we experience the world in a thoroughly different way than we do in everyday life.


HT1340 - What You Care About

Other than our family and loved ones, we all have something that we care about deeply. Maybe it's your pet, your woodworking hobby, your yard, a cause, a place. If you care about it so deeply, wouldn't it make sense this is something you could share with your photography with the rest of us? And not only show us what you care about, but perhaps even why you care about it!


HT1341 - Catching Up to Your Creative Muse

Sure, we can capture a photograph in a fraction of a second. Understanding that photograph takes time. This is why I often find my processing of an image right after I upload it is a common mistake. I need time for the image to mature, to spend time with it, to think about it. I may not fully understand its potential until I do so.


HT1342 - A Fact Is Not a Story

"Entertainment" is a term not often applied to still photography. More typically, a photograph is more like a fact, a statement of what is, a reproduction and memory of what we saw. But a photograph can also be a story and stories are much more powerful than simple facts.


HT1343 - Your Consigliere

Fine art photography is often the solitary effort, and that's probably as it should be. But sometime in the creative process a little feedback can be useful. It's important to have a sort of artistic consigliere whom you trust to be honest and who has the skill to be more than merely complimentary.


HT1344 - Photography As a Performance Art

In general, I don't miss the days in the wet dark room. But there is one aspect I definitely miss and that is the performance aspect of printing. Waving those dodging and burning tools always reminded me of a symphony conductor and his baton. It's a matter of orchestrating the tones in the print, and to some degree that print was evidence of the performance. And then there are slide shows . . .


HT1345 - The Odds of Creating a Masterpiece

These days, anyone can make a masterful photograph. I don't say this because photographers have necessarily become better artists. I say it because volumetrically the statistical odds of getting lucky have become essentially 100%. Make enough photographs and eventually one of them will be spectacular.


HT1346 - When Everyone Is a Genius

Yesterday, I proposed that based on statistics alone, that anyone can make a masterful photograph. What is the implication of this? If everyone is making masterful photographs, don't they cease to be something special, noteworthy, or even collectible?


HT1347 - Diversion from The Moment

In the pragmatics of photography, I've talked about such things as custom buttons, my two camera strategy, and letting go of the tripod. It occurs to me that all such strategies point to the same direction and that is removing things from the photographic process that remove me from the creative moment with the subject.


HT1348 - Up Springs a Thought

When someone looks at your photograph, what reaction do you want the viewer to have? Applause? Thumbs up? A comparison, an association, a technical evaluation, a purchase? All of these, I suppose, are a valid objective for producing and sharing our artwork. How we answer this question determines, to a large degree, what and how we produce our artwork. For me, the answer is always none of the above: The reaction I hope for is a thought. Art as image and idea.


HT1349 - The Barrier of Consumables

One of the most insurmountable barriers to productivity in my youth was the cost of consumables. Film, paper, chemistry, mat board, plexiglass, frames all made the production of artwork expensive and sometimes prohibitive. One of the unexpected consequences of this was the retardation of artistic growth and maturity. But today, in a very real sense, the barrier of consumables has been entirely eliminated, if we choose to.


HT1350 - Newly Discovered, aka Cluster Downloads

As most of you know, I've been an advocate of PDF publication for quite a long time now. One of the best reasons for this strategy is that it tends, over time, to produce a large body of work. One of the great implications of that occurs when someone newly discovers your work.


HT1351 - Be Careful When You Announce What You Are Going to Do

I once had a friend, now passed away, who would periodically announce a new photography project he was about to launch — exploring a new subject, a new publication, a new website, and very often a new book he was going to write. He was perennially filled with enthusiasm, but almost never with commitment. His pronouncements were like New Year's resolutions; he'd be on fire with the idea for a week or two and then we'd never hear about it again.


HT1352 - Your World Is a Fascinating Place

You've no doubt heard the phrase "one man's ceiling is another man's floor." How we perceive the world is a consequence of where we are. I once hosted a Japanese exchange student who was absolutely fascinated by our suburban, cul-de-sac neighborhood. She'd never seen anything like it and was simply amazed at what to me was just our boring old residential street.


HT1353 - Lust As the Driving Force

As photographers, we seem to have lust on the brain. We lust after better gear; we lust after more exciting experiences in exotic locations; we lust after outstanding photographic results; we lust after applause. This is either a manifestation of our insecurity or our insatiable acquisitiveness. Either way, it strikes me as not the only choices for the art life.


HT1354 - The Power to Amaze Us

In the last 180 years since the invention of photography, there were decades when photographs had the power to simply amaze us, partly because they were so rare and so special. Has photography lost its power to amaze us now that it's become so ubiquitous and overpowers us with a flood of images every day?


HT1355 - The Past, the Present, and the Future

Before we started publishing LensWork, one of the observations I had of my consumption of photography magazines was that they quickly became out of date. The content was primarily equipment reviews which were obsolete when the next new shiny camera became available. My youthful fantasy was to use LensWork to serve more lasting goals. The same could be said about our personally expressive photography.


HT1356 - The Origins of the Art

Some say the origin of a beautiful landscape photograph is inherent in nature itself. Some say the origin of a beautiful landscape photograph is the result of the photographers skill in composition and processing decisions.


HT1357 - Just Because You Own a Camera

We all own a camera and we all take pictures. I suppose, by the technical definition, that means we're all photographers. But that certainly does not mean that we are all artists.


HT1358 - Solving the Technical Challenge

I remember once when I was still in school a time when I solved a technical problem in the darkroom. I can out with the wet print in my hands to share my success with my classmates. They were all vapidly unimpressed. The technique was successful, but the photograph was stupid. That was the moment I learned that content is everything.


HT1359 - Down Every Dirt Road

I once had a plan to drive and photograph down every dirt road in my home state of Oregon. I pursued this for years. And then I found the flaw in my strategy.


HT1360 - Quantitative Success

How many good images does it take before you define a trip as a success? How many books do you need to have published; how many exhibitions; how many sales; how many thumbs up; how many hits are needed before you feel that you've succeeded? Is artmaking a quantitative accumulation of successes? If not, how do you define success?


HT1361 - Only Boring People Are Bored

I'm sure I'm not the only youngster who was given this advice by their parents. Couldn't the same logic be used in our photography? Are there boring subjects, or is it that we are the ones who are at fault? If I were to say, "Photograph your life!", you might respond that your life is boring. Remember what your parents told you.


HT1362 - The Flip

Sometimes, the flip of a light switch is a pretty good metaphor for the creative process. We go from darkness to light, from being lost to a moment of clarity and even insight. We flip from everyday consciousness to one of creative vision. The interesting question about this is whether or not that flip happens because of something external, or is it strictly something inside us? Or is there a third possibility?


HT1363 - Your Own Path

Finding your own path is the essence of the creative life. If you are producing work that follows the popular trends of the day, almost by definition you are not creating work from your inner self. Conformity is not the way of the artist. Neither is rejection of conformity.


HT1364 - Once Again, What Else It Is

Minor White's famous advice points us to photograph as metaphor. But that is not the only way of interpreting his maxim. "What else it is" could also point to using what you photograph be bending it to what you want to say as an artist.


HT1365 - Celebrate the Day with Photography

I spent yesterday in the Emergency Room doing battle with a pesky kidney stone. These small reminders of our mortality can help focus us toward the gift of health and time to explore the world with our cameras. I try as best I can to remember that every day.


HT1366 - Searching for Validity

When I do reviews and commentaries on a photographer's work, I often sense that what is really going on under the surface is a search for validity. I suppose they see me as some sort of authority because of my involvement with LensWork and that authority gives me the power to grant validity to their work. But true authority lies elsewhere and part of my job is to get them to see that.