Saturday, July 30, 2005


Photography is a process of selection. Out of our experience, for some reason, we select a specific moment to take a photograph. From all the photographs we take we select specific photographs, or groups of photographs, to edit or share. From the specific selected photographs we select a portion or aspect of the photograph through cropping and editing. Each of these selections is a creative decision and a commitment: what is included, what is excluded, which represents my intention, which do I like, which is too revealing, which is embarrassing, which is cruel, which is of poor quality. Selection takes courage and maybe photography takes courage too? Go back and look at some of your old contact sheets or digital files, would you make different selections? Has your perspective changed? How have you changed since you made your original selections?

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Upside Down Sunset

In high school, 40 some years ago, I had a crucial experience. I was raised in the Seattle area and was by the beach, Salt Water State Park, it was sunset. I was resting on a piece of driftwood. For some random reason I looked at the sunset upside down. The scene came to life, it became three dimensional, I could see the depth, the color, and the pattern. It became real, the sunset was not being obscured by my expectations. The sunset was a completely different experience. Photographically, but also in my life, I have, because of this experience, tried to look at things upside down. I try to reverse an idea, I try to see a different angle, if an idea is worth thinking about it should also reveal when it is reversed. Photographically an image should come to life in an unexpected way. Beautiful pictures are especially difficult. The classic picture of Denali and Wonder Lake is truly beautiful, but it is also boring. The challenge is to somehow bring the image alive, to reveal it in a unexpected way, to maybe see it upside down.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

A moment in time....

A moment in time is an elastic concept. Photography is assumed to represent a real moment in time, there was an actual exposure of light on silver, dye, or a digital receptor. Every Sunday the Fairbanks paper shows a historic photograph. Many times I take off my glasses, old eyes, and look at the details. It is the details at that moment in time that reveals what it was like back then.

Of course we all know that a photograph, even in the old days is an abstraction and subject to manipulation and deception, but what makes it fascinating is that sense of a moment in time. If the illusion of the moment in time is snapped the tension of photography is lost. It is not wrong, just a different experience that can be beautiful and revealing, but different.

Editing a picture, for instance removing power lines, alters the moment in time, but perhaps not too much, unless, for instance, a person is interested in the history of power distribution. A wedding photograph that removes all the character from a face is also messing with a moment in time. In my photography I will edit and enhance, but I do not want to severe the moment in time. I want people to be able, in 20 or 30 years, to see and experience the historic moment.

A moment in time is an elastic concept but at a certain point the photographic process is being used as pigment, the elastic has snapped, and the result, while it can be beautiful and expressive, is no longer photography.

Friday, July 22, 2005

black and white vs. color: my street shooting dilemma with digital

black and white vs. color: my street shooting dilemma with digital
I sure empathize with this dilemma! My digital camera allows me to choose Black and White before I begin and I do that most of the time. My digital SLR only shoots in color and then I have to think about conversion. Maybe it is my film ways, but for me it is better to shoot in the mode that I am thinking.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Everything we see is new?

I was trying to describe to a friend why Thailand was so interesting to me. I told him that "Everything that I saw was new.". As I thought about that statement I realized that no matter where we are, everything that we see is new, the light, the time, the thoughts, it is always new.

We, and I, do not see it that way. Our minds tell us that it is the same: I already saw that; I already took that picture etc. etc. Our minds and our thoughts organize and inhibit what we see. The more I thought about "everything that we see is new" I realized that it illuminates that fuzzy area between what we see, and what we think about what we see. Navigating that border of perception is where we make photographs. Photographs are an interaction between what we see, what we experience, what we feel, and what we think. Even our intentions can determine what we photograph.

Remembering though that, no matter what we think, the actual fact is that "everything we see is new."

Dead Dogs!

Years ago I was taking some photographs around Seward, I was wandering around near the end of a road and discovered a dead dog. I turned away, but then thought about it, stopped, and went back and took the photograph. The dead dog made me feel, and if I feel I should take a picture of what it is that is catalyzing that feeling. Photography is not only for the beautiful or the funny, it can even be for the bored. I have used this experience to remind myself, as I walk around, if I feel something, or have an inclination to take a photograph, take it.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Alex Majoli points and shoots special techniques

Rob Galbraith DPI: Special techniques

This article provided the inspiration to try to use a digital camera for street photography. I had just accepted the shutter lag, and beep and fake shutter sound, and the slowness of the process. I had a Canon G6 and modified it to use manual focus. I could not see the focus confirmation light in bright light so I needed the beep sound. For manual focus I could not see the LCD in the sunlight, but I could see if the manual focus was in the range for depth of field at 35mm EFL. I looked at the Olympus 7070 and bought one, the viewfinder is much better, I can see the focus confirmation light in the sunlight, and I can even use the LCD for making settings. The key to the Olympus though is setting up customized settings using the My Settings menu. I have four settings, color outdoors, black and white outdoors, indoors black and white with minimum light, and manual focus at 28mm with the hyper focus distance set. It really works. Even though I can convert color to black and white in Photoshop I like to take pictures in black and white, it feels better. Anyway this article started this whole exploration.

Mike Johnson's Sunday Morning Photographer - July 17, 2005

Steve's Digicams - Sunday Morning Photographer - July 17, 2005 Modes
I basically agree with this column. Sometimes people take themselves way too seriously. Photography should be fun and somehow in tune with how you personally experience the world. When I go to "photography art" shows the quality and presentation can be excellent, but many of the pictures are boring or contrived, I am not surprised or puzzled, or even bemused. Many of the photographs and photographers that I share on this list are creating fun, unexpected, and non-artistic work. Photography, to me, is sharing a way of seeing and thinking, a spontaneous interaction with the world. The subjects of photography are not necessarily fun, but the process of discovery and sharing is an exhilarating joy. Looking at photographs should be like meeting an interesting person or having an interesting coversation. Even if the subject is shocking, the discussion can be exciting, and even fun.

Saturday, July 16, 2005


Check it out, I bet you wont stop exploring. There is inspiration in these photos.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Nuts & Bolts by Bill Pierce- The Digital Journalist

Nuts & Bolts by Bill Pierce- The Digital Journalist
Interesting and thoughtful look at digital and film. I love using rangefinder and small point and shoot cameras. In Thailand many of my photographs were with a Contax T3 and a Ricoh GR21. Lately though I have been experimenting with an Olympus 7070 and it can also do quick street photography. I used a Canon G6 during the solstice celebration in Fairbanks, but I think the Olympus will be much better. See the previous blog links about using an Olympus as a Leica.

The Vietnamization of Philip Jones Griffiths Gallery - The Digital Journalist

The Vietnamization of Philip Jones Griffiths Gallery - The Digital Journalist