Here's a thought

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November 2022

December 2022

January 2023





















HT1367 - Bullseye Composition

It may seem like I am on a one-man mission to discourage bullseye composition in photography. I suppose I am, but I think for a very good reason.


HT1368 - Backlight

According to the Gods of the Yellow box (Kodak), we photographers are supposed to place the sun over our shoulder to achieve the best illumination possible. Contrary to their advice, I've found that a sizeable percentage of my best photographs are backlit with my camera pointing in the direction of the sun.


HT1369 - Your Cliché

After 183 years of photography, just about everything has been photographed. You and I will, based on the statistical odds alone, face the challenge of photographing what thousands of others have already photographed. The cliché is our destiny. If I'm right about this, how do you respond to a cliché subject? Do you skip it? Or, do you accept the challenge?


HT1370 - Noise and Human Vision

I couldn't tell you how many YouTube videos I've watched about sensor noise and noise reduction, but it's a lot of them. All of them appear to share the same philosophy: that a photograph is supposed to simulate human vision and therefore have zero noise. But is that philosophical premise really necessary or even valid for a work of art?


HT1371 - You and the World

You've often heard me say that photography is about relationships. One of the most fundamental relationships in all of photography is your relationship with the world. Isn't it a miracle that you and the world both exist at all? Furthermore, every place you go, every place you are, everything you see, prompts a response from you. Sometimes the responses are profound and meaningful, sometimes not, but your photography is about that response and your reaction to the world.


HT1372 - Another Thought on Large Prints

For years, I've thought that the ideal print size for photography in general is the 8x10. It occurs to me that that size is pretty close to the normal size for a book. No one seems to push for bigger and bigger books, with rare exceptions. Most photography looks spectacular on an iPad, or even on a laptop or a modest size computer monitor.


HT1373 - Angle of View

As I was mentioning yesterday, I'm an advocate of small prints. But there's another way to think about this that is perhaps even more persuasive. It has to do with the angle of view. For example, I've noticed in galleries and museums people adjust their viewing distance based on the size of the print. It's as though the size is unimportant, but the angle of view is what determines how the viewer adjusts their position.


HT1374 - Chasing the Illusive Unicorn

Some of you are likely to think that I'm obsessing about this print size business with my third day in a row, but here's one additional thought about giant prints. The bigger the print, the more that can go wrong, the more exacting and laborious it's production becomes, and the more care one has to employ in its production. Does all of this additional labor and work serve a function? Or does it simply make it feel like we deserve more praise and reward for the extraordinary work that was required? Are small prints just too easy?


HT1375 - Nerves Are Not Muscles

Since childhood, we've all been trained that success is a function of effort. Try and try again. Try harder. But artmaking is all about being sensitive to the world and to your own reactions to the world. Sensitivity is not a function of muscles, but rather a function of nerves. Learning how to use our nerves rather than our muscles is one of the most important lessons in the art life.


HT1376 - The Focus of Our Efforts

I promise, last comments about print size. Because large prints present so many technical challenges in order to succeed, doesn't it make sense that our attention is concentrated on those technical challenges? If, however, the true success of a photograph is based on its content, shouldn't that be where our focus of attention is concentrated? Wouldn't it make sense to spend our creative efforts developing deeper content for smaller prints rather than expending our energies on overcoming technical challenges?


HT1377 - The Message Behind the Message

I apologize. One last comment about large prints.


HT1378 - Working Through the Obvious

The other day when I was out photographing, I specifically tried to avoid the obvious compositions. I found I simply couldn't! I could try to ignore them, but they were too seductive. The only way to avoid the obvious compositions was to photograph them so that I could let go of them.


HT1379 - More Color Does Not Imply More Meaning

HDR is not the most abused digital photographic technique. That honor goes, I believe, to the vibrance and saturation controls. Shouting the vibrance and color do not make a more meaningful photograph, but they might make a louder one. And I don't know anybody who likes to be yelled at.


HT1380 - Reliance On Technological Superiority

Here's the story about a friend of mine who was one of the world's best photographic printers. That is, right up until the rest of the world caught up with him and his prints were no longer anything special.


HT1381 - Stieglitz' Mediocre Image, The Steerage

Let's talk turkey and be honest. That famous 1907 Stieglitz image The Steerage isn't a very good photograph. It's slightly out of focus, there's no detail in the shadows, people on the edges of the frame are cut off, the verticals and horizontals are not rectified, and there's not really much going on. But it's one of the most famous photographs in all of photographic history. Why?


HT1382 - Titles in Conversation

Why is it that certain groups of words just seem like a perfect title? Titling our work is one of the great challenges for people who are visual folks and who often struggle with the challenges of writing. So rather than write, why not listen for the titles that occur in everyday conversation?


HT1383 - Conflict and Resolution

At its most fundamental, the plot of every story involves conflict and resolution. If that formula works so well that it's the basis of all stories, why can't we use this idea in photography? Particularly in a group of photographs!


HT1384 - Noise-free ISO 12,800

Perhaps you've run across my discussions about Mean Stack Noise Reduction. I've had tremendous success using this technique to create noise-free images at ISO 6400 with my micro 4/3 camera. Just for fun, I decided to experiment with ISO 12,800. I suppose I shouldn't be shocked at how noiseless the images were, but it is pretty amazing.


HT1385 - The Detached Seer

One of the challenges of being a photographer is that we are a third party observer of life as it unfolds in front of our camera. That implies that we are not one of the participants in the life event that we are recording. Which is more important, the record of the event we make or the participation in the event in which we engage life more fully?


HT1386 - Acceptable Enlargement

This topic is deep in the technical weeds, but has provided me useful information dating back to my film days. With film, I found that a 4 to 5x enlargement was as much as I could dare without introducing excessive grain and losing image sharpness. In the digital world, acceptable enlargements can be 25 to 30x the size of the sensor. Wow!


HT1387 - Performing for the Camera

The "Kodak grin." Is there any virtue to these photographs? As a family snapshots, I suppose, but the candid picture is so much more real.


HT1388 - After the Shutter Release

The event that we call "photographing" Is it discontinuous, interrupted activity. We look and look, then compose and frame, then click the shutter. Photographing then stops for a while and until we can do the processing of the image at a later date. But that moment right after the click of the shutter is and often overlooked opportunity.


HT1389 - Fewer and Fewer Prints

It seems to me that fewer and fewer photographers are making prints these days. I'm saddened by this, but I understand it. Prints are expensive and what are we supposed to do with them all? Prints make the most sense when we think about collectability and commerce, but fewer and fewer photographers are producing for collectors or buyers.


HT1390 - Watching a Photographer at Work

I own a large number of videos that are interviews or biographies of photographers. In every video there is the obligatory segment where we see the photographer at work in the field - - setting up their camera, taking a light meter reading, clicking the shutter or cable release. Is that really watching a photographer at work? Or does the work of photography all happen in our minds, our eyes, and our hearts?


HT1391 - Risking My Life

I'll risk a lot for a good photograph, but I won't risk my life. Day after tomorrow there are predicted 25-35 foot waves that are supposed to crash into the southern Oregon coast where I'm staying this month. I want to photograph them, but I need to find a safe place to be so I'm not swept out to sea.


HT1392 - The Sound of the Rain

As photographers, we are visual people. We are not, obviously, exclusively visual people. We each have within us something the Buddhists refer to as the alaya-vijnana, a faculty of perception in which objects we experience with different senses are united so that we can understand them more deeply. How do we include other senses in our photography?


HT1393 - All Cameras Are the Same

I've been showing people my photographic work now for 50 years. One trend I've noticed that is absolutely consistent is that only photographers ask me about my cameras. Non-photographers never ask about cameras, because they don't care what equipment I use. To them, all cameras are the same.


HT1394 - Outside vs Inside

I'm convinced that most photographers are shy. How else could we explain so many photographs of the outside of a building - - especially abandoned buildings? As somewhat of a generalization, I tend to think that pictures of the outsides of buildings are about architecture, but when we photograph the inside of a building the project becomes about the people who lived or work there.


HT1395 - Becoming Invisible

When photographing people, I've always preferred the candid shot rather than the posed shot. But the minute I pull out the camera, people naturally want to pose, especially kids. Over the years, I've learned how to become invisible as a photographer so people forget I'm there and go about their work, which allows me the opportunity for the candid shot I prefer.


HT1396 - Apply to Stack

I regularly employ stacking in my Lightroom catalog to organize groups of images. With some frequency, I then apply a color label, a development preset, a star rating or a keyword to the top image in the stack. Wouldn't it be handy to be able to apply that to all the images in the stack, especially any development adjustments. How about it, Adobe?


HT1397 - Another Virtue of Volume

Someone wants to see your work so you invite them over to the house. What do you supposed will happen if you show them one and only one photograph? Doesn't it make sense that the more work you complete and have available to show, the greater the odds will be that people will find something they really like?