Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A Long Day's Journey into Art

This is about the reasoning behind my newest work. It's long and detailed but I feel it's worth the read as it offers insights other artists might find helpful. Here goes.

I have always been artistically inclined. When I was a child, I played music and did painting on ceramics (painting things like beer steins.) I have always had a fascination with architecture but also have varied interests. I'm not the type of artist who fixates on one subject, rather I tend to dabble a bit, moving to whatever strikes my fancy the next.

When I moved to Austin, I wanted an excuse to get outside more so I took up photography. I kind of found it by accident. I liked it very much. I took to it. I was good at it or so I thought. I always had a day job and never really thought of photography as a career but I felt a strong pull, a very strong pull. I started doing photography, started doing shows, sold a few pieces here and there. Nothing earth shattering but I made progress, I think improving as I went along. As a photographer, I tend to approach my work more like a visual artist and less like a photographer, less like a "straight" photographer. Basically, I paint with my camera, favoring a more artistic approach. I always loved art and wanted to be a painter when I was younger, even dabbling in that at times. Photography allowed me to paint like that, to make compositions that I saw in my mind, only faster and more easily. It allowed me to get my ideas out quicker and bring them to life faster. I liked it, I've always liked that about it too.

At some point as an artist, I want my work to have more meaning. I want it to be seen, yes, I'd even maybe like to make more of a living off of it. Maybe someday, maybe just sell a few pieces. I get frustrated here as I find it difficult to sell a lot of work, though my work is appreciated. At least, I think it is. So, I started looking for ways to make my work more unique, to push it more, to push myself to do work that's more personal, more evolved, in the hopes I might end up making better work or work that I liked more than my earlier work. It's an evolution of sorts, a growing process, and I want to keep moving forward here, to constantly get better and push myself to do better work.

I tried encaustics. At first I was going to do a series of encaustics with photos melted into the wax. I started down that path. It was OK, but then working with encaustics made me realize I really just liked the paint, I didn't really care for the photography part of it. I wanted to paint with the wax and only paint with it. Encaustics are a great way to make boldly colored abstract pieces. I still love them for that, so I did them for a while. I started to have some success here too. At one point, I even had a gallery in New York City talking with me about showing my work there. (I turned it down because I felt I was not ready yet as a painter.)

The problem with abstract work is that, well, people tend to like really BIG abstract work. There just really isn't a market for 10 inch by 10 inch little mini abstract pieces. So, I had this idea of doing work a bit larger, say 18x24, and doing it with the encaustics around a theme. I actually did it. I started down the path of doing this series, called "Earthen/Dusk" which were abstract encaustic pieces inspired by the sunsets around Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was a nice series of paintings and it started to come together but there were problems. For starters, recall I said people like big abstract work. Well, 18x24 inch is kind of big, but it's not that big. To really have success at this, why, I'd have to be able to go larger, like 4 ft by 4 ft or some such thing. Encaustics are done on wooden panels, not usually canvas, and I could barely keep up with storing in my house all of these panels. Then, what would happen if, say, somebody wanted a commission piece? How would I even paint some big, gigantic 9 foot masterpiece? The panels are heavy with all of the wax on them. Shipping these panels is hard and expensive too so how to do shows? Photography always allowed me to do shows. I've probably done like 200 gallery shows. Encaustics can be fragile too-the corners and such can get dinged up easily, plus they require a lot of careful packing and shipping. All things with which I did not want to deal. But, I always liked the way the paintings look, I still do. I love encaustics.

When I was doing encaustics, I realized I wanted to be able to draw better, to be a better painter, I felt it would help me, so I took a couple of drawing classes. I took classes in charcoal and pastels. I had seen pastels before but never really connected but I started doing pastels for a time as well. I like pastels but they too are fragile. You have to frame them behind glass which makes shipping them quite difficult. They can be messy but I liked them. I like the colors and the way they look, even if I don't feel quite like I've mastered them. They are also works on paper typically, so a bit easier to store in the home studio. You can stack them, unlike the wooden panels used for the paintings. I did some pastels for a while but I lost interest in these a bit too, probably because they are too difficult to ship. I hit a busy spell in my day job and decided it was too time consuming to do the pastels, the encaustics, and I missed photography. I decided I would go back into photography and just do that since it was something I could always do while I was working.

Over the years, I had somehow mastered the art of working a day job and doing photography on the side. The day job paid the bills and the photography was fun and rewarding, even if it meant I was basically working two jobs all of the time. I struggled but continued. At one point, I reached a point where I felt like I was at a breaking point. I had managed to convince myself I had to make a go of it as a photographer, to try to make a living at it, to drop the day job. I took steps down this path. I paid off debt to better free myself financially, upgraded my camera gear, started teaching photography classes a bit, I started to look, take a long hard look at the websites, I call them hovels sometimes, where I was showcasing my work. I tried to get into some different, more professional (or so I thought) websites, with the hope my work might sell a bit if placed in front of the right eyes. Some of my attempts panned out, some didn't. I don't feel bitter, perhaps I'm just a wee bit wiser now for this effort, so I can chalk this up to experience and sort of move on now.

As part of this exploration, I came to the realization that a lot of people don't buy photography as fine art. I've lamented this here before but, basically, if you go to the Grand Canyon and take a beautiful shot of the Grand Canyon, when many people see it, why they want to go to the Grand Canyon and take their own beautiful shot of it. It can be difficult, if not impossible, to sell your shot of the Grand Canyon. If that were not bad enough, the entire world has been photographed now. When I went to Santorini, for example, I thought I might come back with some nice shots of pretty Greece and, why, surely these would sell a few prints here or there, right? Well, the Internet is a small place and there are photographers who live in Santorini who shoot it each and every day, who have better shots than my week long excursion will afford me. I can't compete with that. So, what to do? I like photography, I don't want to give it up, but I need a plan B here.

There are a few things I've always wanted to try that I never got around to attempting as well. Cold wax painting, while similar to encaustics creates work that is easier to photograph. I'm also giving some serious thought to doing something like pastels or cold wax painting and layering this using Photoshop with photography. I'm still mulling over this, these new ideas, and may explore it some more at some point. Or not, as the case may be.

Last weekend I took a workshop with Art Wolfe and he discussed some of the same things I have talked about here. There were probably close to 200 photographers in the room there all trying to figure out how they too can become the next Art Wolfe. He talked about doing abstract work and this struck a chord with me. I am starting to feel the pull of doing more abstract photography since it might help overcome some of the burdens I have laid out here. It's easy to ship, I can blow it up larger on demand, it's not as fragile as an encaustic or a pastel, but it offers some of the same design elements as these type of pieces. Still thinking over this approach as well.

Now I'm left wondering if I should get an art coach but I don't think that would really help. I'm just left feeling I want to change things up, to maybe try to go down some new paths, cover new ground. I feel somewhat lost.

This weekend, I went over to the Water Gardens, home of my koi breeders, and had an absolutely wonderful time. I really enjoyed my day, as the weather was perfect and I feel I did even come home with some interesting shots, one of which you see here. I still have a nagging lost feeling. I want to do more but stuck in the mud. Please send help or, at least, you know, chocolate or something, right? I don't know if I need an art coach, a life coach, an art life coach or a giant bottle of whiskey to go with the chocolate. Still trying to figure that one out there, but I did like my water gardens visit and I enjoy the new work, the new direction for my work, so there's that, right?

I think this is a long process and possibly one for which I do not have many answers. Perhaps there are more unanswered questions than I can muster but this is the journey I'm currently taking with my art. I'm questioning where to go next, starting to think though some of the issues, to maybe solve some of the problems I face when doing this. I don't want to stop creating, no, I never want to do that but I do want to mix it up, to change it up a bit. Maybe some bold new direction is in order right about now, at least that's how I'm feeling. Wish me luck down this path of discovery as I am going to need it, right? All of that and yet I somehow feel my journey has only but begun.

Until next time...

PS This image taken at the water gardens. Some algae in the lake, shot with the Canon 5DS and a 100mm macro lens. Looks like a painting, smells like a lake. Enjoy the view, eh?

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Wolfe at the Door

Went to an incredible event today with noted photographer Art Wolfe. He came to Austin to hold his shiny new Photography as Art Seminar and I have to admit it was such a joy getting to see his work and getting to meet him in person. If you're wondering, he's just as nice and gracious in person as he is on his TV show, although we did not, as far as I know, have any snow monkeys in the vicinity. Primates aside, the seminar was filled with interesting facts and presented a wonderful way for photographers to approach their work: diving into the abstract as well as finding inspiration from the art world in order to craft more personal work. I have to say I ate it up, loved every minute, and it's highly recommended if you are so-inclined. Really, if you are on the fence about this one, I'd encourage you to pull the trigger and go for it. It was worthwhile, entertaining, highly enjoyable and I came home with a lot of takeaways although now, in fairness, I do have more than my fair share of homework to do. Rats about that but, seriously, everything was top notch. He's going to be shooting Astoria and other points later on this year and I was so inspired I might have to see if I can slip away and get on board one of his workshops. Oh how I would love to shoot with him as he's a real artist beneath that snow monkey hunting exterior. (In case you're wondering, no, actually, no snow monkeys were harmed in the marking of Travels to the Edge. I'm kidding about that bit.)

The day started out very odd for me. It's really windy here today. When I say windy I mean like perhaps more windy than I have ever seen and it can get quite windy here. The event was held downtown at the Zach Theater area so I left early in the morning and blew in, quite literally, a bit early. In order to get downtown to Zach, I had to drive down Mopac, which is currently dug up and in sorry shape construction wise (We call it the Mopac-alypse.) As I was driving, one of the partitions that blocks off the construction almost blew into my car. Seriously. It was like one of those fence type things, held in place by two sandbags at the bottom. Two sandbags? And it still almost blew into me. I did say it was windy, yes? Phew! I had to swerve my car to avoid the blowing construction and I'm very happy there was little traffic sharing the road with me at that time. If that were not bad enough, I had to drive past the El Arroyo sign. It was so early in the morning, why, they were just putting up the letters on the sign and, yes, this time I did remember to actually look at the dang thing. Seriously, you read that correctly. They were just putting the letters up on the sign which means that, technically speaking, I was up before El Arroyo-o'clock. Dang. That's early. Now you'll have to check the sign online to see what eventually ended up getting posted (just like I have to.) I did, however, remember to actually look at it as I sped past, so, well, there's that, right? (It was just a garbled bunch of letters when I sped past, honest.)

The seminar itself had Art Wolfe presenting us inspiration from the art world and comparing it to photography. If you are familiar with my series "Painters Every Photographer Should Know," it's similar to that only much more interesting to hear Art Wolfe tell it and present his incredible work. He's been a professional photographer for over 40 years and was trained initially as a painter. It shows in his work and that was quite a joy to experience. He very sharing of what he knows and the techniques he uses so it was a real treat to see his work evolve and unfold before our very eyes, as he walked us through his process.

I won't go into the details of the seminar, other than to share a few funnies from it. At one point, I think somebody in the crowd asked him how he controlled models. He jokingly said something along the lines of "with handcuffs and duct tape and..." We had a laugh at that while the questions continued. Somebody else asked him about his workflow and he revealed that he shoots about 2000 images a day. He eyes every frame before the end of the day and he confided in us that he labels some as keepers (or "favorites" I think he called them) and then he "deletes the rest." There was a huge gasp coming from the crowd at this point and I was seriously looking for a fainting couch after he said this. I turned to the man sitting next to me and said, "he didn't shock us with the handcuff business but, man, tell us you delete RAW files and we're all gasping!" Yes, it's true. If you want to shock a room full of photographers, just tell them you delete RAW files. I recommend smelling salts and a comfy chair at that point.

I find talking photography gear the most boring aspect of any presentation (this is not just limited to Art Wolfe, mind you. I just don't find the gear bits to be all that interesting and, frankly, I can read the specs pages over at B&H photo if I really need to know) but I thought it a bit interesting that he pretty much shoots the same gear I do. He shoots a Canon 5DR (I have the 5DS) with a 24-70 macro lens on a tripod with a cable release. I am pretty close to him gear wise although obviously I still have a lot to learn in the making it art department. (I'm trying, really, I'm trying.) At the end of the seminar, he took lots of questions and posed for pictures, one of which you can see here. That's me in case you forgot what I look like, posing with Art Wolfe. On a personal note, I must admit that, as a young girl I had several posters in my room. There was Shawn Cassidy (you remember him, yes?) and a whale tail image by Art Wolfe himself, so it was quite incredible getting to have my picture taken with him. Never in my lifetime did I ever think, when I put that poster on my wall, that I would one day get to meet and share his work in such a personal setting.

A very worthy day filled with lots of information. Now, it's up to me to act upon this, which I can do by starting a new project and doing the "homework" of researching the artists and photographers presented. Hopefully, I'm up to the task, we shall see. In the meantime, if you get an opportunity to visit with Art Wolfe or even to check out his show on PBS (it's called Travels to the Edge) I highly recommend it.

Until next time...

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

My Crystal Ball is Backordered

A while back I had read a Simon Bond article, "7 Tips for Doing Crystal Ball Refraction Photography." I think I had happened upon a link to the article from Light Stalking (lightstalking.com)and somehow managed to follow my way over to DigitalPhotographySchool.com to read the actual article. Simon Bond has a small series of these how to articles on crystal ball photography if you too are interested in going down that path, I might recommend them, that is to say, I might recommend them if I had an actual crystal ball. You see, the first article in the series was helpful enough, as it addressed, well, the actual acquisition of said ball o'crystal. It even had a lovely link to an actual crystal ball that you could purchase for crystal ball refraction photography on Amazon.com. Seriously. Like, who thinks of these things? Wonderful Simon Bond thought of everything so I, along with say 20 million other people happily clicked through, following the link to purchase said ball o'crystal. All well and good, as you can now imagine gobs of crystal ball wielding photographers basking in landscapes of the round all over the globe or at least the outer reaches of  DigitalPhotographySchool.com. I envisioned Amazon.com trucks everywhere, bogged down under the weight of an unusually large stream of crystal ball deliveries, almost hearing the cries of weighted down UPS drivers screaming out insults like, "here's your damn ball, you wanker!" under their breath while calmly asking us to, "please sign here." (There is a certain joy in the kingdom of the round, is there not? Well, maybe so long as you don't drive a truck for Amazon.com that is.)

You can probably imagine how this is going to end but I thought I might fill you in just for grins and giggles. I happily clicked on the link, plunking down the hard earned twenty seven bucks in order to secure my very own crystal ball, complete with wooden stand. (I've since learned that no crystal ball is in fact complete without said wooden stand. Who knew these things? No I, that's for sure, not I.) Now, at this point, one might think that I'm out basking in the glow of the round, running through fields of happy little dew drops, refracting everything until my cold black heart is content yet again or at least, you know, more round than it was yesterday. You might think that, yes, but you would be in fact wrong. No you see thanks to the wonders of the Internet, Simon Bond, DigitalPhotographySchool.com and Light Stalking, horror of horrors, the crystal ball (complete with wooden stand!) is now on back order. Yes, snowflakes, I hate to admit it but my wonderful purchase of a twenty seven dollar crystal ball complete with wooden stand as selected back on December 7th, 2016, has been put on none other than the dreadful back order. It hasn't just been put on back order, no, it's been back ordered about sixteen times since the middle of December. Today, in fact, it's pathetic tracking status reads "Arriving January 19-21" which sounds quite promising until you read the additional follow-on note that announces, "Preparing for shipment." It's gotten so bad and so frankly laughable that I'm actually starting to think they really don't make crystal balls (complete with wooden stand!) at all. No, I'm starting to think they are remnants of gypsies and days gone by, relegated to that old dust heap of silent movies and AM radio stations. Don't all modern day phychics use the Internet now anyway? I mean, like who actually uses a crystal ball nowadays besides like, say, a random bunch of refracting photographers? No, I've in fact started to believe in my very heart of hearts that this, why, it's not going to end well (not for me and probably not for the back ordered ball either come to think of it. The wooden stand might make out OK though. Here's hoping, right?)

My crystal ball is back ordered. Now, who didn't see that coming? Actually, come to think of it, how could I have seen that coming since, well, I don't yet have anything to gaze into to tell me all about it.

Oh the humanity! I wish I could say I'm having a ball but like I'm not, OK? (Nope. No balls in this joint!)

Until next time...

PS This image from Dakota, taken with the Canon 5DS and the walkabout lens, no crystal balls in sight, at least not as far as I could tell.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Show News/Looking at the Ocean

This is the shoreline of Lima, Peru, shot with the Canon 5DS and my walkabout lens. In other photography related news, I've currently got an image up at Austin's Corridor of Arts Gallery, located inside the Chase Bank Building at 700 Lavaca in downtown Austin.

The work is part of a show called "Member's Choice" which is images selected by the Texas Documentary Photography Group. Interesting thing about this show, we usually do shows more along the lines of themed exhibitions, you know, shows like the Stomp That Grape! where we explored wine making in Texas and the like. This show is different. It represents the photographers own selection. It was kind of interesting to be free from a theme and be able to cull from the archives to be included in a show such as this and I honestly think the open theme does a lot for making the show look more diverse.

Some details about the show. It's up now and it runs through February 26th. We are slated to have an opening reception on Thursday, January 24, from 4-6 pm with wine and cheese and the like so, if you're in the Austin area, feel free to stop on by and check out the work. I've got one piece in the show, it's a black and white image included in the lot. I've seen pictures of the show and it looks rather nice so I hope you get to check it out if you are so inclined. 

Until next time...

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Lesson Learned from a Public Meltdown

Black and white image of an abandoned school house in rural Norht Dakota near the town of Rugby.
Mariah Carey and Meryl Streep recently had public appearance that were, shall we say, very "public." One appearance tangled with equipment one with politics but they had something in common. They each had a very public vent of frustration culminating with a public response. 

For Mariah Carey, it was a New Year's Eve performance that caused all but a melt-down, to the point that people were joking about it. ("Did you hear they had to call out the Department of Homeland Security in New York on New Year's Eve? Mariah Carey dropped a bomb on Times Square.") While I haven't extensively studied exactly what happened, I believe it can be summed up by saying she ended up performing one song while the music was playing another. There was even talk of sabotage, as some in the Carey camp claimed she was setup to perform the wrong song.

I think the big takeaway for artists here is that we sometimes work with equipment and, yes, that equipment can sometimes be faulty. Accidents happen, mistakes are made, we are all human. Does anybody out there reading this really actually think that Mariah Carey cannot sing? Anybody? Bueller...Bueller? No, we all know she's one of the greatest singers of a generation and she's got a slew of hit records to back that up. She's written songs, she's recorded songs, she's a solid artist and you really can't take that away from her now, can you? OK, so her New Year's Eve performance was maybe not her best and things got messed up but does that make her any less of an artist? Heck, I'll go so far as to say I can only imagine what she must have felt after that performance. It must be the most frustrating thing in the world to have that happen to you. I honestly feel bad after watching what happened and I honestly feel that we owe it to her as an artist to remember her body of work. Maybe you've seen a good song that she's performed or one of her songs came on the radio and it reminded you of something nice or maybe she penned a catchy tune once that left you humming along. She's a talented artist, a great performer, and I intend to remember her that way. If nothing else, her New Year's Eve performance should serve as a reminder of how good her good performances were. To put it another way, she's made it this far without having that kind of faulty equipment hit her, shouldn't she get props for that? Personally, I choose to remember her good work and this incident might encourage me to download one of her songs in support of her so-called "meltdown."

For Meryl Streep, perhaps the most frustrating of all is the idea, real or perceived, that you cannot do what it is you do for political reasons. You may or may not agree with her political stance on issues but consider this: how many films or images are being crafted in North Korea? I've personally spoken to this before as well. As a photographer and an artist, I simply cannot do what it is I do without enjoying and exercising an aggregate of personal freedom.  Freedom is a prerequisite for art and, as an artist, she felt it her duty to speak out to defend her ability to exercise her craft. Some will say she alienated her audience, perhaps that is the case, but she felt it her right or perhaps her duty to speak out to what she viewed as an unacceptable condition. It was her award time allotment and she opted to speak as she saw fit, taking a stand against something she saw as unjust. As an artist, my takeaway here would be that I should be able to speak out if I really saw the need to say something. At times, society looks for artists to be leaders, trailblazers in their fields and, let's face it, our artistic platform offers us an opportunity for a bit of a public facade. We can lend that face to many causes and use our platform as a means to invoke change that we want to see in the world. Or, you know, we can make pretty pictures. As an artist, I feel it's a good thing the choice is ours to make.

I hope you have some interesting lessons from these recent public appearances. While I am not an artist of the caliber of a Mariah or a Meryl, I like to think that events such as these can help shape my view of the role artists play in society. And, yes, I still like to make some pretty pictures as well.

Until next time...

PS This is an abandoned school house in North Dakota shot with the Canon 5DS converted to black and white with the Nik silver efex filtering.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

2017 Photography Predictions

Ring...ring...."Hello, Psychic Friends Hotline, this is Carol speaking..." OK, so maybe I can't tell you if your dead grandmother really likes your new boyfriend or not but I do have some predictions for 2017 in terms of photography. Here they are, in no particular order.

1. We will see a rise in activism art. 2016 was an election year in the US and it was a particularly hard fought and bitter one. Regardless of which side you favored in the run up to the election, battle lines were drawn and discussions got heated. Although the actual voting is behind us now, the contests decided, and the time has come to move onto inauguration and the ushering in of a new government in the United States, I don't anticipate the discussions to subside. Look for the art world to respond to a President Trump as it sees fit, this might take the form of new social documentary photography or just a general lashing out as things unfold. Even if you don't live in the United States, I expect a new level of discourse to present itself in the image making universe. There are too many social issues coming to a boil, with groups like Black Lives Matter, immigration coming to the forefront, LBGQT rights and others. I expect the art world to respond to these times and the photography community will be on the front lines for some of these discussions. Watch for photography to have a voice as part of this new era of political discourse.

2. Two X moves to "real" cameras and grows wings. Year 2016 was probably the year of the double exposure. They were everywhere, with photographers shooting a lot of 2X work. If I didn't love it so much I'd be almost sick of it already, but I anticipate the trend to continue into 2017. In part, the trend was pushed by the ease of the 2X in the iPhone app land (with apps like Diana and such) but I anticipate 2017 will see photographers porting these techniques back to their "real" cameras, if that hasn't started already, not to mention more of it coming from the iPhone universe. I look for lots of double exposure style projects done in Photoshop shot with Canon/Nikon's in 2017. It's just bound to happen, as well as lot of double exposure work coming from the iPhone world.

3. iPhones/Camera phones will be taken more seriously. While I'm on the subject of iPhones and mobile related photography, I expect 2017 to see iPhone cameras be taken more seriously this year than ever before, in part due to new equipment but also due to a greater acceptance in the photography community. 2016 was a year we saw the iPhone 7 come out and lots of mobile phones are now sporting serious cameras, at least we've seen a jump in quality on the hardware side. While I still hear many photographers say "iPhone is just as good" and we've accepted that, at some point in the future, we'll probably all be shooting nothing but what's now considered mobile, there are still a lot of photographers shooting both the "real" camera as well as the mobile, hinting as a less than full acceptance. Let's face it, clients are reluctant to pay us gobs of money for an iPhone shot and some photographers are shy about presenting an iPhone only proposal to clients. I anticipate we'll move towards changing this in 2017. While I don't anticipate full acceptance (we'll never have that. Heck, I can point you to some people who have yet to accept film now comes in color format.) I expect a sort of "less shock" at seeing "real" photographers shooting mobile (or adding mobile into their kits.) 2016 saw its first Sports Illustrated cover shot with an iPhone, I expect 2017 will see more, much more, of these type of events, although it's getting harder and harder to tell when they happen, given the increased in quality on the mobile photography front.

4. Rise in "do good" photography-photography as philanthropy. As a new generation of rising stars achieve a certain photographic success (good blog traffic, Instagram following, Facebook sales, etc.) look for them to start giving back to their communities. Let's face it, many photographers, fall into one of several camps. We are either aging baby boomers, children of the 60's, basically the grown up "love child" or millennials who long for something more than just the same sort of material crap their parents shoveled. Both of these camps have something in common-a desire to do more with their cameras and to really make a difference in the world. We're already seeing philanthropy creep into the photographer's world in small bits. The Santa Fe Workshops have travel workshops designed for the powerful combination of photography and philanthropy and I would expect this trend to continue well into 2017. It's just a natural fit so I think we'll see a lot more of it. Look for more workshops centered around this and some larger projects that will allow photographers to shoot for good, in the philanthropic sense, come 2017.

5. Better equipment in iPhone/iPad land. Look for better equipment to come into the iPhone universe as acceptance increases. When I say better equipment, I'm not just talking cameras here. No, look for the entire workflow to improve both hardware and software wise in 2017. Expect announcements like better backup devices, better transfer mechanisms, printers more able to "speak iPhone" and the like, possibly even some things that are not on our radar right now. There are currently many startups and kickstarter campaigns designed to make the mobile experience better and I expect some of these will gain a more broad acceptance in 2017.

6. Varied equipment-our gear is all over the map! The end of 2016 saw the photography community using gear that varied from mirrorless to better DSLRs, to a rise in digital medium format cameras, and even better iPhone cameras. Phew! In the old days, the lines were pretty much drawn around hardware, with medium format being used by fashion and fine art, photojournalists using the silent 35mm and a lot of black and white film, etc. These days, it's anything goes in terms of equipment and we've blurred the lines between portrait, landscape, street, fine art, etc. Now we're seeing more things like "Instagram photographer" or "500px photographer" or "Facebook photographer." It's more about our output than our equipment and our marketing is less centered around our equipment as well. Technology has not slowed down and we're seeing a host of new gear married with a base of users completely unafraid to experiment. I expect this to continue in 2017.

7. Retro rules. Hinting at this before, baby boomers are retiring in record numbers and will continue to do so throughout 2017.  This new crop of retired boomers carries with them a desire to learn new things and occupy their post employment days. Photography is especially popular since many aging boomers always wanted to do it and never found the time, not to mention equipment and learning barriers were ever present. Times have changed and now the aging population is quite capable of taking up new hobbies. Photography makes an excellent hobby for the grandparents and camera manufacturers have not failed to notice this. We're seeing lots of retro style camera gear and I anticipate this trend to continue well into 2017. Also, look for classes geared towards the older population as well as workshops that are inclusive here.

8. Rise in Photographic Authority. Coupled with the aging boomer population and the younger folks shooting, we're seeing a geographic spreading of the photographic community. Now, we've always been a traveling kind but, in the past, a photographer had to rely upon the gallery circuit in a place like New York City to make sales and really exist as a successful fine art photographer. More recently, we've seen the Internet starting to take over web sales, so much so that a photographer in say Peoria is now able to make a living relying on Internet sales and working out of Peoria alone. Gone are the days of having to travel to the big city to rely upon larger venues an internationally known arenas for sales. That doesn't mean the big New York auction houses and galleries are going away, however, it just means things are changing. As this geographically spread community flexes its muscle, it will look for authoritative acceptance. I see places and events like the Armory Show, the Santa Fe Photography Workshops, Art Basel, the Venice Biennial, and others to play an increasing role and have a great say to the community. There will be a rise in significance in some of these traditional authorities on photography, and 2017 will find them having more of a say in the direct marketing since places like New York have a decreasing hold on the market. That photographer who is now able to grow a following in Peoria doesn't need New York gallery to be successful but a successful photographer from Peoria will want to make a splash at something like an Armory Show in order boost validity of their work. I expect this to continue well into and past 2017.

9. Media. Look for media to hire in 2017. I expect media will hire photographers again in 2017 but it will be new voices, not the same old tired work. As media is facing limited budgets but we're seeing things like eBooks rise, tablets are providing an outlet for media and will continue to do so in 2017. It's a new market out there though, so look for fresh looks, new voices, new names, and the like to make a splash. We're also seeing new crops of magazines show up and these are more geared towards the tablet space. As we see new rising stars in the media space, we'll see new photographic voices coupled with that success.

10. Style will be king and rule the world. OK, maybe not the entire universe but we're already seeing how photographers today have to rely more upon selling a style over selling a subject. 2017 will usher in more of this. Let's face it, in 2017 there really isn't a part of the globe that hasn't been photographed already. In the old days, a photographer could be the first person to visit outer Mongolia and come back with prints in order to be successful. Nowadays, heck, there's already a professional in outer Mongolia (I can hook you up if you'd like to meet her. Really, I can.) In order to make your mark, you can't show us something new, no, you have to show us something you. The photographers who were the most successful in 2016 had a unique style, a visual tell if you will, a unique perspective on the world around them. Gone are the days of one place being the "it" location. Sure, you can travel to Iceland or Mongolia or, heck, even Peoria, but it will do you little good if you don't show us your take on it. I expect this to continue in 2017 and even amplify. Look for more style kings to rule our collective roosts in 2017.

A couple of runners-up that didn't quite make the list: drones and 3D printing. I expect them both to be hot in 2017 and photographers to make more use of them.

These are my predictions for our new year. I wish you the best for 2017 and, no matter what happens, I hope you make the most of it photographically. Oh, and, if you're still curious about your recently passed grandmother and that boyfriend, well, sorry I really can't help you out on that front.

Until next time...

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Best of 2016 - My Top Images

I've been asked to compile my best of 2016 images so I thought I would post them to the blog today. I've picked out the following 10 images to be my Best of 2016.

And the glorious details:
Image #1 from my trip to Lima, Peru in the Miraflores district. I was walking around and happened upon this red house that was being renovated. I was particularly struck by the different windows on this bright red house so I opted for this composition which highlights the three different window styles.

Image #2 from my trip to Minot, ND. I was walking around downtown Minot on the return from visiting rural North Dakota when I saw these grain silos. It was a sunny day, mid-day but I thought the blue sky worked as a nice background for the geometric and boldly colored structures. I tried to get a straight on perspective to emphasize the texture and lines in these rural buildings against that blue sky.

Image #3 back to Lima, Peru, this image was captured immediately down the street from my hotel. I noticed the playful geometry of the building facade alongside the speed bump and composed this shot as part of a later afternoon walk around the city.

Image #4 a blue door in a rural North Dakota farmhouse made for an interesting textural showcase. Instead of shooting it straight on, I opted for this more diagonal composition to highlight the peeling wall paint alongside that deep blue door.

Image #5 a blue couch from an abandoned North Dakota farmhouse. I was particularly drawn to the couches on this trip and this room drew me in with it's blue peeling paint and blue faded couch fabric.  I opted for a straight on composition to highlight the texture of the paint against the almost matching blue fabric from the couch.

Image #6 another North Dakota farmhouse, this time in the kitchen. The kitchen you see here is very close to the way they left it. I opted for the 3 point perspective style composition on this image to make it look more lively and almost playful, since the room was very full of items and I wanted to showcase that a bit in my composition.

Image #7 a bedroom in a rural North Dakota farmhouse. The home was abandoned but the bed was still made up and ready for sleeping. I wanted to reflect this tidiness so I opted for a straight on composition and tried to minimize elements in the image.

Image #8 a school house in Willow City, Texas. This was from a trip to photograph abandoned historic school houses in rural Texas. I shot this straight and put the desk in the center to highlight its importance and give it more weight within the image.

Image #9 a school house in Johnson City, Texas. This building dates back to early 1900's and had been abandoned but left mostly empty and untouched. I played around with the placement of this chair a great deal, settling on this image which places it near the left hand side. I thought it balanced out the leaves on the floor and the lines in the wall so I preferred this composition over a more middle/balanced one.

Image #10 a church basement in rural North Dakota. The church is abandoned now but many items remain in the basement, as you can see from the image here. This was shot almost straight on but slightly high to give the impression that you are looking a bit down upon the scene. I wanted it to look a bit cinematic in nature so I opted for this line and composition.

I hope 2016 found a great crop of images from your pile as well.

The great photographer Ansel Adams once said, "Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop." It's difficult sometimes to look back and fine anything of value but that's the nature of what we do. I hope 2017 finds us all with better images or at least, you know, getting closer to the point of 12 in one year.

Until next time...