Monday, July 30, 2012
A couple of upcoming events to tell you about while I am busy with the spit and polish. For starters, I've been invited to attend a special gallery talk tomorrow evening in downtown Austin. Now, for those of you who do not understand quite what I mean, this is going to be one of those gallery talks where we get a special program as presented by the gallery owner. So excited about this, as it's one of my favorite galleries for fine art photography in Austin and I'm on the "short list" for invitations. Wish me luck with this one, for it's certain to be a good time. (Luck, fun, all of that goodness and light, right?)
Next up, I know I have been meaning to do this for a while, but I really should, at some point, do a post about what's in my camera bag. Now, I have never felt it was "telling" or all that "revealing" to talk about what's in there-it's basically a load of camera crap, right? But I've come to realize that all of these "what's in the bag?" posts are somewhat expected of us. It seems like everybody wants to know all about what kind of gear you have all of the time (as if that's going to help them take better pictures. Harumph!) I've decided to cave and do it anyway. Grumble if you must, but I too will fall victim to this "what's in the bag?" mentality and, yes, finally reveal all the crap that's in there. In case, you know, in case you were curious or something.
After shooting on the beach, I'd have to honestly admit, at this point, a wee little bit of sand is in there and that, my friends, is never a good thing. Hmmm. Maybe I'll have to clean that out too, since I'm in this crazy cleaning mood today anyway. (Look for the What's in My Bag? post coming soon! ...To a blog near you. All of that and probably some upcoming notes from tomorrow's gallery visit, I'll be sure to post that as soon as I can for you as well.)
Until next time...
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
This year, before the games have officially even kicked off, there's already a scandal brewing, and it has to do with the photographic portraits of the athletes. Getty photographer Joe Klamar shot some portraits of the athletes that many are calling less than professional grade. Some have even gone as far as to suggest that these portraits are so bad they must have been produced this way on purpose-that there is some kind of "message" the photographer must be sending to us all-perhaps something about athletes being held up too high on a pedestal (or what? I'm not really sure here.) So bad they must have a hidden message? Really?
You can view the portraits here if you are curious and want to see for yourself.
My take on this entire "Olympic portrait scandal" is maybe somewhat different from what you may (or may not) have been reading. The Olympic games have given us many great images (over time) of athletes performing at their peak. I prefer to think about all the great shots we have yet to see than the shots we didn't quite like. Sure, the "bad" shots might represent a failed (or missed) opportunity, but such is the nature of photography. It's a fleeting moment in time, captured, if we are lucky, for all to see and enjoy later. In this day and age of Flickr and Facebook and all things happening real-time streaming right in front of our eyes, we forget that photography is a craft and, like any craft, sometimes it's good and sometimes, sadly, it doesn't live up to our expectations. To put it another way, not every photographic shot is destined for Flickr's explore and, no, Cinderella, we can't always get the perfect fitting glass slipper sometimes, instead, we have to get the lump of coal. Sorry to mix my metaphors on your like that, but you have to admit, we're a (photographically-speaking anyway) spoiled bunch of brats if you really think about it. We've gotten so used to see "fantastic!" that now, even a slightly "well-done" image is crap to our eyes. Spoiled, spoiled, spoiled. (You want some cheese with that whine?)
Part of being a professional photographer is that we work in all kinds of conditions. We travel, we have obscene deadlines, bad weather, annoying editors, crazy models, and all kinds of stuff thrown at us and, what do we do when faced with all of this? You guessed it: keep shooting! That's what we're here for, isn't it? Shoot, shoot, shoot. It's raining, cold, I'm tired, it's wet, my batteries dead, I'm out of Compact Flash, my model's hair is crazy, my model is crazy...shoot some more. It's the nature of the game (well, our game anyway, thought I'm sure the Olympians have their own version of "once more with feeling.")
So, yes, the Olympic portraits you see at the link might be "bad" in your eyes. They might not be up to your standards. You might even think of them as "crap." Whatever. The photographer tried. He did the best he could with what he had at the time. Maybe he's not a great Olympic portrait photographer but that doesn't mean he's satan's spawn walking God's green earth either. Cut him some slack, he did the best he could given the circumstances.
To put it another way, I'm sorry if your sensibilities have been annoyed. I'm sorry if his rendition of this year's Olympic athletes didn't live up to your "perfect world" "Leave it to Beaver" top page of Flickr's explore expectations. Please don't tell me you could have done better, as I've heard that all before too-the world is filled with annoying arm chair quarterbacks. You're just pests who would be in the game if you could get in the game. In this land of photography, welcome to the real world, you're only as good as your best shots and you're only as bad as your worst. Please don't hold photographers up to some kind of "ideal" coulda-woulda-shoulda fictional "standard" because you have a point and shoot camera and think you're the top dog in the pack. That alpha male crap is so yesterday. Let's just agree to all try and get the best shots we can, ok? That's what the world wants, that's what the world *really* wants.
Pictures of heroes taken by heroes. It's a tall order, please don't fault one photographer for trying to deliver that to you, OK?
Until next time...
Sunday, July 22, 2012
A lot of people take their kids to the beach. This is a good idea, because kids love to play. I always struggle with shooting the little ones-there are so many laws surrounding privacy and so many nut jobs out there-but I still want to get a good shot or two in. So, what's a photographer to do?
In my case, rather than ask if I can photograph the kids, I tend to blur them up a lot. A little bit of blur, when done in the right places, really goes a long way towards obscuring identity. This image also has the kid dark, so I can (pretty much) use it pretty freely without having to go through the hassle of securing a model release. I like that.
I mean, don't get me wrong, I've secured model releases in the past. And, I'll do it again. I do it a lot, in fact. Almost all of the time, you could say. But, even given that, there are times when you just don't feel like doing it. When you just don't feel like getting a model release and you just don't really want the shot all *that* badly that you're willing to give up several minutes of your life, not to mention go through the hassle of scaring the you-know-what out of the kids' parents ("No, really, I'm an artist!" Yeah, that goes over oh-so-well let me tell you.) In some cases, yeah, blur is your friend. Especially when you are dealing with youngsters, it can be a lot easier to blur them up, bury them in crowds, or do whatever it is you have to do to make them a lot less identifiable and a lot more "free" from the need to secure a model release.
Of course, every country and every place is different. Laws vary. There are times you have to secure a release regardless and there are times you might just snap away and just not worry about it. But, you know, if you can't get a release (or maybe you just don't want to) it's kind of nice to know there are still options available to you. At least, I kind of like knowing that anyway.
(Besides, who wants to carry a bunch of blank model release forms in the surf? I sure as heck don't. And I'm not always bringing my iPhone there so this is a nice option to fall back upon should you happen to want to try it out for yourself.)
Until next time...
Saturday, July 21, 2012
Without further ado, here are the top 10 things I've learned about Port Aransas, Texas:
10. Even though Port Aransas is located on Mustang Island, wild ponies are not the only animals you'll find there. There are actually cows native to the barrier islands here (they sort of "walk on over" when it's dry and then forget to meander back before it rains again, getting themselves stuck on the barrier island.)
9. The Texas coast has one of the largest barrier islands going-it spans almost the length of Texas. To get there, you can take a bridge from Corpus Cristi or a ferry from a town called Aransas Pass (we opted for the ferry-it's free and we got to see some pelicans en route. You can also get out of your car on the ferry and take pictures if you are so-inclined.)
8. There are many species of birds in Port Aransas due to the expanse of marshland there. I saw lots of seagulls but also egrets, cranes, brown pelicans, and more. Port Aransas is a bird-watchers paradise, especially in the spring as the various species of birds migrate. You can rent bird blinds there and "hide" to take pictures of the great coastal birds if you are interested in doing that.
7. There is a lot of fishing there too. You an spot dolphin, swordfish, trout, tarpon, and many other large fish there (I know dolphins are not fish, but neither are sharks and they are there too. I have one thing to say if you do not believe me: bite me! Show me your teeth, they live there too, honest.)
6. The houses are painted all different colors. We had a bright purple house in view of our beachhead, but there were other colors too: red, pink, bright blues and yellows, you name it. Apart from color, most island homes do have one thing in common-they are built on stilts to help protect them from flooding (which happens a lot along the coastal waterways, inlets, and shorelines.)
5. The Tarpon Inn is an old hotel on the Island. If you go inside, by the lobby area, they have a giant tarpon on the wall (so you can see what one looks like.) Instead of traditional wallpaper, they let the locals pin up a scale from a tarpon fish caught in the Gulf. The walls are covered with these tarpon scales that, overtime, fisherman have signed and dated. While visiting, I was told that a tarpon is actually not good for eating-it's too boney, but it makes a good trophy fish. They also have a book at the front desk where you can "look up a scale" that is, it cross-references the scales with the fisherman, so, for example, if you happen to know the name of somebody who once caught a tarpon and hung up a scale, they can look it up and tell you what number scale it is and maybe (approximately) whereabouts it would be stuck up on the wall.
4. They have a lighted pier there so that fisherman can go fishing at night or early in the morning. While photographing the beach at sunrise, I saw several folks already up fishing. Fisherman, it would appear, are even bigger early birds than photographers up at the crack of dawn hunting a good sunrise shot.
3. They have both rip currents and strong undertow there. To save yourself in a rip current, I'm told, swim parallel to the shore until you are past the currents then come in. It doesn't sound like it would work but I'm told it does. While I was there, a hurricane (the recent one that struck landfall in Florida) was churning in the Gulf, kicking up the waves (yes, even as faraway as Texas) in the Gulf. Watch local weather and pay attention to the signals from the sea if in doubt. Things can go from smooth to choppy very quickly, and back again, or so it would appear, along the Texas coast.
2. As you walk along the waves, you can spot lots of seaweed and little muscles and shells. The small muscles are sometimes open, indicating a seagull has already come along and had a meal. The seagulls eat the small muscles as they wash ashore in the currents. If you do spot this, look for footprints in the sand to photograph too. Gulls and other coastal "wader" type birds can leave interesting tracks in the sand too and this is often a great way to get a unique nature shot. (Not many people think to look down just after a bird has flown away.)
And, the number 1 thing I've learned about Port Aransas...drum roll, please!
1. You can drive on the beaches in Texas and you can also camp there. At night, we saw folks making bonfires. We also went to Mustang Island State Park where you pay a small fee but you can take your car right up to the water. "Don't get stuck!" they told us at the gate. I guess, sadly, some people do. Still, it's fun to drive along the shore and it kind of reminded me of Florida and my childhood visits to places like Daytona where beach driving was quite fun.
Until next time...
Monday, July 16, 2012
I looked up, saw the big birdie bird, and thought, "Oh, you're not a seagull!" Yeah, no, ahem, "stuff" Sherlock! It wasn't a seagull, but rather this large-ish looking thing glaring back at me. The funny part happened next. The bird looked at me, still sort of glaring away, annoying as all get-up that I was on his (ahem, "her," "it's," whatever) beach, trying to rid the world of all things human, when he (yes, again) caught sight of my tripod. Now, for some strange reason, perhaps a reason only a great big birdie bird might be able to understand, said bird was quite enamored with my tripod. Quite enamored. As in, tried to mate with, sorta, kinda, my tripod. Really. Seriously? A tripod? Dude, it's got like three legs. Have you no shame?!?
I guess, shame is not for four feet tall birds who flop along the shore, as the big birdie bird flapped along, stood on one leg for a while, checked out the tripod, and then, eventually, flew on off down the beach. Ruffled a few feathers, my trusty old tripod did, but it wasn't for long. Nope, that bird had other plans, and made off down the beach after a quick dip of the forked toes in the sand. Leaving me to wonder. Did it actually (maybe?) think my tripod was some kind of a bird? Was it just annoyed at the random display of stupid human species unfolding before it? A mix of the two? Neither one? Out of fish to eat? Afraid of the sunrise?
Your guess is as good as mine.
Oh, and should you happen to know what kind of birdie said giant "I'm not a seagull" actually is, please do kindly let me know. Best guess, so far is some kind of a giant heron, but, you know, it could just be a tripod with wings, couldn't it? (Do they make those nowadays? Don't they? Hmmm. I bet they even have an iPhone attachment so, you know, so your iPhone can up and fly away. Fly like the wind, little smart phone, fly like the wind!)
Until next time...
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
It can be hard working as a photographer because there are shots you need to take, shots you want to take, shots you just have to get, and shots people want you to take. It can be a balancing act of epic proportions, let me tell you. Once you figure out how to work a camera, and people find out you're good at it, everybody wants a piece of you. Sometimes, I just feel like a rag doll, pushed and pulled into many different directions, too many different directions for me to keep up with it all.
Of course, as luck would have it, this is when you usually get one of those "great idea" moments.
It happened to me the other day. I was driving in my car and my favorite song came on the radio. My mind started to drift, the way it always does, and then, BAM! along came the new great idea. It was such a strong idea, I started sketching how the finished images would look-I have some of them already "drawn out" even if they only exist now in my mind. From past experiences, anytime you can actually get an idea that's strong enough to make you "see" it, to make you "draw it out" in your head, that's when you know you have a good idea. This was one of those. So, now I have this great idea and I won't be able to do it right away. It's going to haunt me, to drive me crazy, to eat at me from the insides, to torment me, until I finally get to let it out. Argh! (Dear Great Idea: I know you're great but, man, you're killing me. Please stop! Thank you. Signed, the management.)
I guess I should be thankful I have ideas at all. I mean, some folks, artists even, never get any of those. But, me? My ideas seem to come freely but, somehow, the best ones, the cream of the crop, seem to come along at the very instant I cannot act upon them. The textbook definition of "the most inopportune time" I swear. It's maddening, sometimes, although I guess I have learned to cope (over the years and all.)
On a more positive note, one of the "rag doll" items in my queue involves some studio work. You do remember the studio, don't you? It's that place I'm supposed to work? Oh, right! There. Sure, I'd never forget *that* joint.
Been traveling and shooting on location so much lately, why, I'd have to say at this point, "Studio, I hardly know ya!" (Meh. At least I know where to get some good herbal tea there.)
Until next time...
Sunday, July 08, 2012
Today I'm busy organizing my studio space (a bit) and will maybe upload my infrared images from the recent trip to the shore (let's hope, right!) Maybe, if I can find time in-between moving and clearing out some old boxes. Heck, I have to make some room in here so that I can walk around, let alone get some new work uploaded.
Having said that, look for me to upload this stuff at some point. I'm curious as to what the black and white work is going to look like (and, let's face it, most of my infrared work will be black and white.)
I also have to upload photos of the un-named bird, so that somebody can help me figure out what the heck kind of a bird it was. All I know, so far, is that it tried to mate with my tripod. (Best guess is a heron but, heck, it might have been a bogen. What's that you say? Haven't heard of a Bogen? That's because it's a tripod really, and not actually a bird.)
Bogens on the Beach. That movie *not* coming to a theater near you anytime soon now, I promise.
Until next time...
Wednesday, July 04, 2012
Today marks the 4th of July in the United States which is a holiday for those of us here. (It's a day also known as Independence Day for those of you not in the US.) An interesting thing about the US-we're basically a freedom-loving lot. We love our freedom. It's a hardcore part of who we are, what we think, and what we believe.
Being a photographer, doing what I do, it would not happen without a certain amount of freedom. In fact, I'd go as far as to say it *relies* upon some of those very freedoms we celebrate today. Part of our national Bill of Rights is the notion that we celebrate freedom of the press, we also have freedom of speech, which protects us in a lot of cases. It protects us from legal action and it allows us to do what it is we do. We can't take pictures if they won't let us take pictures and taking pictures is what we do, so we rely upon that very freedom to do it.
Now, I know you're probably sick of hearing about "freedom" on this day of celebration, and you probably want to go off to the beach or just take a bank holiday and get a day away from work. That's fine, we all need that, but think about how our lives would be if we didn't enjoy this type of freedom. Do you really think you could jaunt off to faraway location shoots if you're too busy worrying that the government is going to come in and takeover your studio? Do you really think that you can shoot with the models you want to shoot with if you're too busy worrying that the government might censor you for not working "along party lines?" We can walk and talk and basically go where it is we want to go (and, man, photographers do get to go to a lot of places, let me tell you, we're always on the go!) Not having to be stopped for "papers" (sometimes a thinly veiled excuse for just arresting people in some locations) is a big plus, let me tell you. It's hard enough getting the shots we get. We work hard bringing you the things we do and we travel far and speak to a lot of people in order for work to get done. None of this, virtually none of this, would be available if we didn't have the kind of freedom we celebrate today.
If you don't believe me, try getting stopped in customs at some ungodly hour of the day. Try getting held for "questioning" in some foreign land, one where you don't really speak the language. Try getting asked for "papers" again and again and again, just because some federal agent was quick to spot a tripod. It's not fun. It's not a fun part of what we get to do, and it makes our jobs all that much harder, sometimes even impossible, when you really stop and think about it. Now, I know many Americans tend to think of these sorts of things as just "pests" really-small nuisances they sometimes have to deal with in order to travel or get somewhere, but some folks live with these kind of restrictions each and every day. They are not free to travel, they are not free to go out without "papers" and they don't enjoy things like Miranda rights or even freedom of speech. They can't just open up their doors in the morning, go out and "say" what it is they want to "say" (even if their "speech" is really contained in a blog post or a photographic image.) If you don't believe me, read the recent news. There are countries, locations even out there, where censorship is happening on a large scale basis and where governments are "cracking down" on "troublemakers." (Of course, the "government" in question usually gets to define who is making the "trouble" and what "trouble" really means, right?)
There is a special place in my heart for photographers who come from lands where they do not enjoy these type of freedoms (the ones we take for granted.) Honestly, I don't know that, had I been born into a society without the freedom we have here in the US, why I don't know that I'd even be a photographer at all. I would probably spend most of my days, most of my time and artistic energy investing in getting out, trying to escape from that tyranny, rather than letting my inner voice soar. I'd search for that kind of freedom, and not spend time working on art projects. I don't know if I'd be able to take pictures, to craft images, to make the work that I do if I had to worry about the government meddling in everything I did or if I was constantly harassed for "papers" the way they do in some places. Honestly, I don't know how far I would go. Frankly, I would have probably given up years ago if I had to put up with it on a constant basis.
So, yes, today I hope you get to go to the beach. I hope you have a great barbeque. I hope you get to cook, and eat, and maybe sit out in the sun. But, I hope too you get to enjoy your freedom because, without that? We wouldn't be able to do any of this. No Internet, no web, no blogs, no photos, no freedom. Spot the trend? Yeah, it's not a pretty picture and, in case you cannot connect the dots, let me fill you in on this one...it doesn't end well, at least not for the people in question. It's no fun living like that and, yes, some people are forced into that sort of an existence. Today, maybe you should count your blessings that you are not one of them-that you can actually view these sorts of intrusions as "nuisances" rather than the everyday happening.
Freedom might sound like an overused word. You might even think you have plenty to spare. Heck, that's great, I really hope you do. But, on this day of days, on this "Independence" day, I hope you'll stop and think some about what it really means to be free. What that freedom allows you to do and how you can make the most of it.
Freedom to create art means the spirit can soar free. That's a lot bigger than a barbeque, let me tell you, a whole lot bigger than any backyard barbeque, trip to the beach, or any "bank holiday," that's for sure. The freedom to express oneself is a great power, it's one that I enjoy, and it's not one I take lightly. On this Independence Day, I hope you get to enjoy it too, wherever in the world you might be.
(This shot taken in the Tarpon Inn of Port Aransas, Texas, thanks to the Hipstamatic app with the dream lens.)
Until next time...
Monday, July 02, 2012
In other news, I was talking with somebody the other day who told me she does not like to use the term "artist" to refer to herself.
"Why not?" I asked. "I mean, isn't that what you do?"
I take it there are some folks out there who don't consider themselves "artists" or maybe there are some photographers out there who don't consider photography to be art? I'm always confused by this, I mean, to me, photography is a kind of art, it's a specific medium. Photographers are artists and, heck if you're doing something, why not say you're doing it? Why mince words about it? If I were a doctor, lawyer, Indian chief, I'd call myself that, no? So what's so special or different about labeling oneself an artist?
I guess it's just something to think about and maybe more on this subject in an additional topic.
Until next time...
Sunday, July 01, 2012
Shooting down by the shore has its issues. For starters, it's difficult (if not impossible) to get the beach to yourself. This sort of implies you have to include other tourists. What's a photographer to do? Well, using the appropriate amount of blur and making the background just sort of "drop out" does wonders for getting rid of people. It's one of my little options, in my little "bag of tricks" that I can use to make things just sort of "go away" or, you know, at least sort of go my way.
I actually sort of like the colors and the energy from the blurry people in this one. I think it's kind of a funky little shot, one that you might expect from me anyway, thanks to my recent trip to the shore.
I went to the short last weekend. What did you think the photos would turn out looking like? Did you expect something like this? Were you expecting something different?
Sometimes, it seems like, once you get a kind of a style, it's difficult to escape that. You can go to the shore, you can go to the tourist hangouts, you can go where you've never been before and, your photos? Why, they look just like you went to the shore, you went to the tourist hangouts, etc. Once you start to get a style (and I'd have to say mine is kind of funky/dreamy/quirky-ish) there's no escaping it. It will follow you to your grave and, hey, probably beyond, what with the price of prints in the after-market these days.
So, go ahead, take the "expected" shots. Take the shots that everybody else takes, I dare you. You'll only come out looking like yourself in the end. Ppppft. I'm sure a million people have shot a million shots of the beach, even with the seagulls walking and all and why, I'd reckon, probably none too many of them wind up looking a bit like this one.
It's my own funky/quirky little universe and it follows me wherever I go. Don't I wish everything could be this easy? Or, at least, you know, half as fun as a funky seagull walking down the shore like this little guy.
Until next time...