Friday Inspiration: Douglas Ethridge

I recently came across the photography of Douglas Ethridge. The first image of his that caught my attention was one from the same series as the example I posted above, featured in an interview with him in F-Stop Magazine. There’s more to Douglas than just these images of water, his black and white work is equally stunning. Check out all of his portfolio’s here and my favorite black and white set, Waypoints, here.

Finally check out the video of Douglas discussing his work below.

The Value in Competition?

It’s been a big few days for sport here in Boston. Friday was the first home game for the Red Sox and today is the Boston Marathon.

Fitting then that I had a conversation at the end of last week about the sport of photo competitions. If we ignore all the flat out bad things about photo competitions – that they are money earners for the organizations that are running them (not strictly bad) and attempt to get royalty free images – are they useful?

You could argue that competitions give you an opportunity to judge your work against that of others and also that this is also an effective way to market your work and build an audience. I would say no on all points. Art is subjective, ask three people and you’ll get three different answers. Competitions can be an effective way to get your work out to a broad audience, that is, if you win. Otherwise there’s probably not a lot of value in it.

It’s always nice to win, for some this is more important than it is for others,

Competitions bring out the worst in me. In a competitive situation I want to win and will do whatever it takes to win. I don’t think that this is terribly useful when it comes to fine art photography where the goal, or at least my goal, is to effectively capture my emotional response to the scene in front of me or to make the image that’s in my head. As soon as I start thinking about what it takes to make a successful image before I’ve made it then I’m not going to be true to myself.

I don’t view fine art photography as a competitive sport. For me it’s much better to use your own work to benchmark against, a little like the runner who is interested in personal best time, but to do that after the fact. After you’ve made the image and worked it up. Then see how it fits with the rest of what you’ve done and whether this meets the standard you’ve set for yourself.

Competitions aren’t an end game for me. I may enter the occasional competition but it will be will photographs that I made for myself not with the competition in mind. What’s your position on competitions?

Competitions bring out the worst in me. In a competitive situation I want to win and will do whatever it takes to win. I don’t think that this is terribly useful when it comes to fine art photography where the goal, or at least my goal, is to effectively capture my emotional response to the scene in front of me or to make the image that’s in my head. As soon as I start thinking about what it takes to make a successful image before I’ve made it then I’m not going to be true to myself.

In Service of the Print

Winter Trees

‘Not every printer is a great photographer, every great photographer is a great printer’

Ansel Adams

I came across the quote attributed to Ansel Adams a couple of weeks ago and couldn’t help but wonder whether this is really true today. There have been seismic changes in photography and technology in the last 10 or so years – the shift to digital, decent cameras in most mobile phones, great tablet devices and on and on – that makes me wonder what was true when Ansel Adams made his comment is still true today.

How many people feel the need to print? Sure not people who are stock photographers. They deliver their content to the stock agencies digitally and it is further distributed digitally. Wedding photographers? Again another example of a group that are focused on high quality with high productivity, that would most likely today have some if not all content delivered digitally with the remaining photographs and associated wedding books printed by specialty print services. Editorial photographers, similar story – digital delivery to their editors.

Does this mean that these photographers are not ‘great’? Of course not. The successful photographers in these fields have exacting standards that when coupled with creativity and a capacity for hard work has been the foundation for their success.

So is Ansel’s comment still relevant today? I think so but we should modify it slightly – ‘Every great fine art photographer is a great printer’.

It’s never been easier to print your own photographs. Prices of really good ink jet prints have dropped precipitously and are well within the range of most serious amateurs. There are a huge range of ‘substrates’, papers and other specialty surfaces, available for printing. The standard printer drivers and paper profiles give good results without needing tweaking. Finally there are a tremendous range of resources available to help you along the way – George DeWolfe’s Book ‘George DeWolfe’s Digital Photography Fine Print Workshop‘ is one that I would particularly recommend. It’s quite possible then for us all to make good prints and with a commitment to the craft even some great ones.

Black & White or Color?

Black & white or color? This is not usually a question for me, I don’t see the world in black and white I see in color. Strong vibrant colors are what capture my attention and are what make getting up for sunrise worthwhile. However, I am increasingly finding that there are times when black and white seems better suited to what’s in front of me. The image above is a great example – it was quite a stormy morning, with impressive light on the horizon. When I took the photo it was with black and white in mind, there was very little color in any case. Which got me wondering, other than the obvious images where there’s little color anyway, how to choose between black and white and color? I could imagine wanting to use black and white when color is not important to the photograph, when it’s a distraction and when you want to emphasize texture.

When would you choose black and white over color? Why?