I’m on the road this week for the first time in a while. There were a few back to back years where I clocked in excess of 100K miles but I haven’t done that in a while. Those years did teach me something about packing for business trips – pack as little as possible so you can carry your bag on, bring a minipower strip and have back-ups for important data and computer gear. All the obvious stuff. What people can’t teach you, and you won’t find in a book, are the things that are important to you. The small things that will make life on the road tolerable.
I have yet to develop a system that I’m happy with when it comes to packing for a photography trip. This is especially true since most of my photography takes place locally, or at least within a days drive, which means I can just put all and everything into the car without having to think to hard. When faced with a technical question I always start with Moose Peterson. Check out the videos below for comments from Moose on packing for travel.
and John Paul Caponigro on the Art of Packing and in the video below the Art of Travel
I quite enjoy looking at photobooks whether they are produced by friends or by icons of photography or both. While I may not be able to own the great works I can live with them through the books.
The quality of photo books has certainly evolved in recent years, the color reproduction being an area of most significant improvement. For instance, some of the Eliot Porter books I have do not come close to the colors of the original prints, I was blown away when I saw an image of his at the Farnsworth Museum, or even to images in the more recent books of his work (see here and here). On the other hand black and white reproduction seems to have been consistently of a high quality, certainly amongst the books that I own.
Even with the relatively high bar that I have for black and white photobooks I was pleasantly surprised with Paul Caponigro’s ‘The Wise Silence‘ that I found recently. A former library book, my copy is a little battered and grubby, clearly having been enjoyed by many before I found it! It is however a great collection of Paul Caponigro’s images, perhaps my favorite of the books of his that I own, printed on a nice heavy textured paper (Mohawk Superfine) and the text is letterpress on the same paper. All this makes for a great package – I wish there were more books like this and perhaps there will have to be if books are to exist as physical objects.
As we move increasingly towards digital formats it seems to me that there will be a real reason for books to exist in a physical format. Physical books will need to have something that sets them apart from their digital counterparts. That something could be size, or high quality fine art paper, a vehicle for letterpress printing, but will need to be sufficient to move people towards paper rather than sticking with there electronic devices.
I was browsing through the local Barnes and Noble store last week when I came across Joyce Tenneson‘s book Shells: Nature’s Exquisite Creations which caught my eye because I’ve been accumulating photographs of shells, rocks and other pieces of stuff I’ve found at the beach. In looking at her work I realize that the still life work isn’t generally representative of her work. Check out Joyce talking about her work and the creative process in the videos below.
As you can probably tell from the photo above, my book collection is getting a little out of control. While I would have a hard time paring it down and parting with any of the books I thought that it would be a fun exercise to select 25 ‘how-to’ books to hang on to. I decided to select a set of ‘how-to’ style of books. Some a very practical nuts and bolts of how to use Lightroom or Photoshop, some point the way ‘how-to’ using examples from the authors, some feature exercises designed to help you find your way of capturing images, some ask more questions than they answer and finally some help with talking about your work and sharing it with the world. These are all books that I still find useful, although not necessarily ones that I would recommend to someone who’s just picked up a camera. I’m sure this would be different to your list and would be happy to hear what you would have included. A ‘top ten’ from my collection of art books, monographs etc. in the coming weeks.
My copy of the catalog for Paul Caponigro’s exhibition ‘The Hidden Presence of Places‘ arrived this week. I was of course familar with, and particularly like, ‘Running White Deer‘ and aware of some of his still life studies but otherwise largely ignorant of much of his work. This was an attempt to fill in that gap in my knowledge. I was very pleased that I did. The collection in ‘The Hidden Presence of Places‘ has a number of images that resonated with me – quiet and contemplative, exactly what I am striving towards. The essay that leads off the book has a number of references, many of which I will add to my library over the next few months. In the meantime I’m going to study the images in the catalog and plan a visit to the exhibition at the Farnsworth Gallery in Rockland before it closes Oct. 9th.
I have had a lot of fun so far this year looking for ways that I can bring a sense of motion into my photographs. To do that I have been experimenting with moving the camera. One series of experiments involved panning with a slow shutter speed, both vertically and horizontally, a variety of different subjects. Some of the results I quite liked and I will continue on with those ideas. On the day I took the photograph above I was headed back to the car after a morning shoot. Although I wasn’t ready to be done, the sun was too bright for the kind of photographs that I prefer. As I walked back down the road I noticed a patch of rocks that had interesting colors. The straight shots I made were okay, but wanting something different I tried both panning the camera and rotating the camera. The result of rotating the camera is shown above.
I have been playing with the interaction of still and moving, generally trying to combine the two into a single photograph. When I saw these trees together on my way down to the beach recently I wondered whether I could build on my interest in motion to create an image that I was happy with. I took a lot of frames but was happiest with the one above. I may try more of these!
In his book ‘Welcome to Oz’ Vincent Versace says that practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes permanent! Perfect practice makes perfect. This should be familiar to anyone who’s learned how to play a musical instrument. Practice builds muscle memory that can be hard to unlearn once established.
I think that the same can be said for patterns of behaviors, the rhythms and routines of life. It’s certainly true for the way that I approach photography and change is hard to do.
The Maine Islands workshop that recently attended with John Paul Caponigro marks another step in my evolution as a photographer. I’ve heard many times before the importance of ‘working the scene’ and frankly thought that I was but now realize that I’m not working hard enough. The challenge that I’ve set myself is to go ahead and make the obvious image but then make something more creative and keep pushing until I have 6-10 distinct images. Easier said than done! Even though I set out with the intention of doing that what I ended up with was not too much of a departure from what I’d done before. Breaking old patterns of behavior is tough but certainly worth the effort.
I continue to work through the images I captured at John Paul Caponigro’s Maine Islands workshop. I have plenty to work on!
One of the topics for discussion was the use of graduated neutral density filters. With a well captured image the tools available in Lightroom and Photoshop make this type of filter redundant. However, I’m not ready to give up my filters just yet. I will usually take a number of images with and without the filters and see which I like the best. Even with the expensive ‘neutral’ filters from Singh-Ray, under the conditions I usually photograph I get a pronounced color cast. Sometimes I like it, sometimes not so much. The image above was taken without a filter and then processed in photoshop to add a digital neutral density filter.
I’ve been developing a series of images exploring the juxtaposition of motion with stillness. I’ve shared some of those images here previously. More can be found on my main website here. At John Paul Caponigro’s Workshop I spent time trying things that were on the fringes of what I would normally do.
One of the images that I made that I quite like is shown above. It fits into the general idea of what I have been trying to achieve with my Still Motion series and yet is a departure. This image was made on Monhegan Island on a misty morning, with very limited visibility.