Engaging with the Masters

In looking at the work of Peter Dombrovskis over the last few weeks I couldn’t help but wonder about how we engage with the work of the ‘photography masters’. My preference of course is through books. Based on my Peter Dombrovskis experience this is a challenge.

There are of course the exceptions. Access to Ansel Adams’s photographs are readily available through books and calendars. It’s even possible to get prints from the original negatives printed by Ansel’s assistant Alan Ross.

Not every photographer has the kind of machinery behind them that Ansel has. What about the others. Is there space for periodic ‘remastering’ of classic books in the way that classic records are remastered. A very different undertaking but certainly possible.

I feel like one of my favorite photographers, Eliot Porter, received this kind of remastering in 2012 when a new edition of
‘In Wildness Is the Preservation of the World’. was published to mark the 50th anniversary of the first edition.

The Getty Museum also published a collection of Eliot’s work at around the same time, ‘Eliot Porter: In the Realm of Nature’. This book rather than a new edition is a great survey of Eliot’s work and for me is reminiscent of the Peter Dombrovskis book I recently acquired.

I wonder how many of the masters will get this additional chance to reach a new audience through a book, how many will achieve something similar through the internet and how many will fade away.

Friday Inspiration: Peter Dombrovskis

I love hearing who inspired you as a photographer. Not only does it provide insight into who you are as a photographer but also provides me with a jumping off point for a new exploration. I can then share the results of that exploration here.

Peter Dombrovskis was one such photographer that I heard about during an interview with Joe Cornish. Down the rabbit hole I went.

Peter Dombrovskis was an Australian photographer most well known for his photographs of Tasmania. His photographs of the Tasmanian wilderness were instrumental in conservation efforts, most notable was his contribution to the campaign to prevent the damming of the Franklin river.

Looking to dig into Peter’s work I was keen to get a hold of some of his photobooks. They are hard to find and often very expense. Perhaps because of his geographic location there isn’t a big pool of his books on the used market here in the US. Fortunately there is a relatively recent book of his work ‘Journeys into the Wild’ that can be be found with a bit of effort. I ordered a copy and had it shipped from Australia. It arrived a little battered but I’m pleased that I was able to get a copy. Take a look at the book in the video below.

I very much enjoyed hearing Joe Cornish talking about Peter Dombrovskis’s work – take a look below. To learn more about Peter please visit his website here and also see the article at On Landscape here.

Ways to Present Your Work

Having looked through the boxes of prints that I have it made me think about how we share our work with the world.

If you’re like me then one of the most exciting was to offer my work into the world is in the form of a book. To do this using the traditional offset printing route can be an expensive undertaking. Print on demand services such as Blurb or MagCloud are certainly a pragmatic alternative but the unit cost of the book can be a little steep.

I’ve been thinking about alternatives to the print on demand style books such as handmade ‘artists books’. More about that in coming posts.

An alternative to the book is the folio – a concept that I believe Brooks Jensen originated.

A folio is a collection of loose prints, with or without text, in an enclosure. I made some for my ‘Going Coastal’ project many years ago, take a look at the video below to get a better a sense of this.

I really like this idea – it’s a book like object, manageable in size and can be produced relatively easily. I think more of us interested in presenting our work as books should explore the concept.

Spring Cleaning

Wow – how did we get into April so quickly. It feels like winter zipped on by and now we are on the doorstep of the summer boating season. The arrival of spring is usually marked, domestically, by a period of spring cleaning. I rarely feel moved or motivated to pick up the duster but this year is different. After a year at home with no travel my office has gather some barnacles that need to be scraped off in readiness for the next part of the adventure.

I have indulged, splurged would be a better word, on a number of photobooks and art books in general that have yet to find their place on my books shelves. This is also an opportunity to rethink how the shelves are arranged and organized. I also want to get the paper I have for printing organized so that I know what I have and can find it!

Perhaps for once I will get everything off the floor and be able to run the vacuum around. Ha! Wonders will never cease.

Friday Inspiration: David Gentleman

The view from Primrose Hill, by David Gentleman.
The view from Primrose Hill, by David Gentleman

When I took a dive into the world of Urban Sketching over the Christmas break I came across David Gentleman. Actually having grown up in the UK I had seen David Gentleman’s work many times before, on stamps and also on Charing Cross Underground Station in London. David has been incredibly prolific over the course of his career – working in watercolors, wood engravings, illustration and design. He’s created stamps, coins, cards, books of his own work, illustrated books for others, murals it goes on and on. Impressive and something for us all to aspire to.

Primrose Hill   David Gentleman 'My City

David lives in a part of London called Camden Town and his studio is at the top of the house. Check out a tour through his studio here. Most of David’s books are out of print, some of which go for a shocking amount of money used. I’m fortunate enough though to have a couple of his books – the most recent one is ‘My Town: An Artist’s Life in London.’ Check out Danny Gregory talk about David’s Book Britain in the video.

Finally listen to David himself talk about his life and his book ‘London, You’re Beautiful: An Artist’s Year’ in the video below. To find out more about David Visit his website here.

Sketching Techniques for Artists – Alex Hillkurtz

One of the urban sketchers that I came across during the Christmas break was Alex Hillkurtz. Alex teaches a course called ‘Architectural Sketching with Watercolor and Ink‘ that you can find on domestika.org. I highly recommend it!

From his biography it seems that Alex has had a peripatetic life – he born in England, grew up in California and now lives in Paris. His sketching and watercolor work use and are informed by his work as a Hollywood storyboard artist.

Digging into Alex’s process more I was delighted to learn that he had a book recently published that details his approach.

Sketching Techniques for Artists: In-Studio and Plein-Air Methods for Drawing and Painting Still Lifes, Landscapes, Architecture, Faces and Figures, and More as the title suggest goes beyond the architectural sketching that I had enjoyed in the online course and provides a much broader foundation for the beginning artist. I particularly enjoyed the pages that are in light yellow. These are pages where it feels that Alex is talking to you as a friend and mentor, advice that helps provide some perspective on the particular lesson or example. Really great!

To find out more about Alex visit his website here and check out the video of the interview with him below.

The Power of Presets

I noted recently that most of the images that I’m posting here and other places are made, and finished, using the iPhone. I enjoy the way of working it’s fast easy and I can do it anywhere. If I have 5 or 10 minutes to kill I’m likely to scroll through the recent batch of images that I took and run them through one of the apps that I have on my phone.

I’ve generally been pretty happy with what I’ve been able to achieve although I have received some criticism of the processing of some of the images that I posted – mostly ones from a while ago when I was heavily using presets to process the images. Phototoaster overcooked my images! As a reaction to that feedback I’ve migrated to using Snapseed to adjust contrast and saturation and not do much more to the image if it were color. For black and white I finish the image up in VSCO using one of the black and white film emulations.

In the last week though I’ve started to play with the presets in Instagram. I’m starting to think that I’m not pushing the images as far as they can go, or at least fully exploring the possibilities. I’ve been surprised that some of the filters in instagram achieve a better result than the one that I decided was ‘done’ in Snapseed. Why is that?

I think it was Brian Eno that suggested we go to an extreme and retreat to a more useful position. I don’t think that I’m going to the extreme – pushing saturation a little harder to see what is possible, pushing contrast to see what effect it has – and that is limiting the visual impact that my images have.

How about you? How do you process your images? Do you use presets to explore the potential in the image before setting to work in earnest? I’d be happy to hear about it.

Friday Inspiration: Erik ‘The Viking’ Aanderaa

Gadda Stack, Foula 2, Erik Aanderaa

The first time I came across Erik Aanderaa’s YouTube channel I must admit I thought it was some yahoo macho nonsense. I mean who sails solo in the North Sea in Winter? ‘The Algorithm’ at work again. Although how this was related to Sailing Zatara is beyond me.

The sailing was riveting ‘Encountering Storm Force 10’ and I quickly found myself having watched all the videos and eagerly waiting for the next one. What I came to appreciate was that Erik was slowly building up his skill set and taking slow steps towards a bigger journey. A solo circumnavigation of the Norwegian Sea.

Erik was trained as a professional mariner and currently works as an instructor at a marine safety center. He clearly understands the risks of being around the ocean and uses that experience to prepare for his offshore adventures in his Contessa 35, Tessie.

Between Jan Mayen and Iceland
by Erik Aanderaa

If you listen to interviews with Erik you will soon learn that his sailing adventures haven’t been incident free. In 2011 he ran aground just outside of his home port of Haugesund. Sailing in sub-zero conditions he became hypothermic and disoriented. He went down below to warm up forgetting how close he was to land. Tessie ended up on the rocks, sustaining damage that took six months to repair. That experience would have been enough to end sailing for some of us but Erik learned from the experience and was back out sailing as soon as Tessie was ready.

Erik’s winter sailing in the North Sea is epic but equally remarkable are the videos. He has some of the most amazing sailing footage I’ve seen – captured using a drone that he is controlling while sailing single handed! Stunning!

Erik’s epic voyage around the Norwegian Sea was completed just as the world was entering lock down. Check out the multipart series below. To learn more about Erik check out his YouTube channel and don’t miss some of his photos here.

Virtual Photo Tour: Nordic Edition

While I was going stir crazy and planning adventures I started thinking about a tour through the Northern Latitudes – Iceland, The Faroes, The Shetland Islands and Norway.

Of the four places the only one I’ve visited before is Iceland. I was in Iceland in 2014 but didn’t have as much time to explore as I would have liked. That time I was based in Reykjavik and took trips from there to photograph.

There’s so much to see in Iceland that I don’t want to try to do everything on this first trip. My plan would be to just focus on the coast around Reykjavik and then on subsequent trips see more.

To maximize my time in Iceland I have Michael Levy’s Photography map of Iceland, which will help me find great locations in and around the places that I want to visit.

First stop of the tour is Budir on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, about a 2 hour drive from the airport.

From the notes that I made I would stay at the Hotel Búðir which would be a great base for an exploration of the Peninsula. Impossible to go to Budir and not take at least a few pictures of the black church!

The Black Church of Budir as a Photography Location
The Black Church, Mads Peter Iversen

After 3 or 4 days in and around the Snaefellsnes Peninsula it would be time to move on to Vik.

I’ve been to Vik before and in fact the picture of the church in the banner for the blog page was taken in Vik. I didn’t have much luck when I was in Vik the last time, the weather was shocking, it was pouring and the fog was so thick that even though I knew there were sea stacks I couldn’t see them! I did manage to get a picture (sort of) of the black sand beach though.

After a few days in Vik it would be time to move on to Jökulsárlón and the Ice Beach.

The mouth of the lagoon in Jökulsárlón forms a bottle neck that traps Icebergs causing them to break up into small pieces of ice and to get caught on the beach. I think that this is now a very popular location, not unusual to be shoulder to shoulder with other photographers I’m told. Hopefully not on the day when I visit!

Jökulsárlón and the Icy Beach as Photography Locations
Icy Beach, Jökulsárlón Mads Peter Iversen

After Jökulsárlón it’s back to Reykjavik and home, but not before we stop at some waterfalls. First up Skógafoss, followed by the famous Seljalandsfoss and the nearby hidden waterfall Gljúfrabúi.

Seljalandsfoss, Iceland, Andrey Andreyev

Generative Ideas for Starting Projects

How do you come up with new projects? Noodling on ideas in your journal is one way. Another way would be trawling through your Lightroom catalog to see if that sparked anything. I have been thinking about, and pursuing, this approach recently as I rebuild my lightroom catalog and find images that I’d either forgotten or previously passed by.

Another way could be to come up with titles for projects that are ‘generative’, titles that spark your imagination and creativity, titles that can be a jumping off point for the project itself. I’ll give you an example of what I mean.

I was driving around a weekend or two ago on very familiar roads and as often happens letting my mind wander. I drove past a graveyard and made the usual joke to myself, one that I heard from my dad many times when I was little – ‘there’s the dead centre of …’ insert the town you happen to be in. That then led me to think about something that I had heard, perhaps read in Todd Henry’s book Die Empty.

“The most valuable land in the world is the graveyard. In the graveyard are buried all of the unwritten novels, never-launched businesses, un-reconciled relationships, and all of the other things that people thought, ‘I’ll get around to that tomorrow.’ One day, however, their tomorrows ran out.”

That then quickly led me to the evolution of the ‘Dead Centre’ to ‘The Home of Forgotten Dreams‘. This is something that I feel that I could work with and wouldn’t necessarily just be pottering around in a graveyard. Perhaps a Todd Hidoesque set of spooky looking houses at night?

I’d be curious to hear how you start projects. Do you fire the dart into the wall and draw the target around it? Do you start with an idea in mind and build towards it? Have you ever started with a title and used that as a jumping off point?