Dark of the Moon: A PDF, A Zine & A Chapbook

Dark of the Moon

I’ve enjoyed looking at chapbooks and zines over the last couple of weeks, especially as an alternative to ‘prints on the wall’ as a finished product. To begin exploring the practicality of this I thought I would pick a small set of images and make something.

I had been playing with my iPhone at night just to see what it was capable of doing in low light. Over the course of a couple of weeks – usually when I was taking out the trash cans – I made a series of images of the moon. I then wondered whether I could actually get a crisp image of the moon with my Sony A7RIII.

I pulled these together in a Lightroom catalog, picked the ones I liked the most and then started in.

I have also had ‘learn InDesign’ on my list of things to do, so this was an opportunity to do all of this at once.

I started simply by making the chapbook using square museo cards. These are double sided so it was easy enough to set up a print template in light room for the card and run them through for the front and back. It was a bit of a brain twister to make sure the the right image was in the right place, in the right orientation but I figured it out eventually.

Not everything went to plan!

I then moved on to the zine which I had decided I would make on regular photocopy paper using my laser jet printer. I made a project for this using InDesign and was able to relatively quickly assemble the images for printing. My laser jet printer has a duplex option which means it automatically prints on both sides of the paper. It did take me a while to get all the settings figured out and by a while I mean a lot of paper! I finally realized what the issue was and got the zine printed.

Finished zine printed on photocopy paper

For binding, the zine was stapled using a long reach stapler – what a cool toy that is! – and the chapbook was sewn using the three hole pamphlet stitch. I was happy with how they came out.

Take a look in the video below.

Finally using the InDesign file I made a pdf of this project – check it out here.

I was quite happy with how this came together. I still have a lot to learn but have a number of ideas for other mini-projects that I could do in a similar way which will build into something a little more substantial.

Final Chapbooks and Zines

Logging My Days

Tempus Fugit

It’s amazing to me how quickly the days go by and how little I remember of them. A little bit like the conversation with teenagers at the dinner table – what did you do today? Nuthin… it’s so easy to let the day go by and not hang on to any of it.

This has been especially so in the last year where every day has felt like the same. To combat this I have gotten into the routine of logging my days. Nothing spectacular just a few notes at the end of the day to capture what I did. It’s a little bit Austin Kleon and a little bit bullet journal.

Austin Kleon’s Notebook Turducken

I also like to capture my energy level and focus and also what was the highlight for the day. I have a template that I made for Evernote that makes setting all this up pretty easy.

I find that on the days where I have taken a photograph I can reconstruct what I was doing, what mood I was in, what the weather was like and on and on effortlessly. The photographs immediately take me back. I can’t help but think that this is because I am usually very ‘present’ when I’m photographing while I’m thinking about what’s next, racing ahead through my day, when I’m not.

How do you slow time down to relish and remember your days?

An Alternate to the Folio – Boxes of Prints

Having written about folios as an alternative to a book I thought it was worthwhile pointing to another solution which is the box of prints.

I understand that historically these might have been matted prints but a trend that I am seeing emerge over the last few years is for photographers to offer boxes of prints to their audience. These prints can range from a representative collection of prints spanning a few years, the output from the previous year or just the most recent season.

I was exciting to receive Simon Baxter’s first box set of prints recently and thought I would show you how he pulled this project together as a case study for what excellent could look like.

It’s easy enough to to buy a photo box off the shelf pop your prints in and call it a day but Simon went beyond this. He has his logo embossed in the box lid, the lid itself is hinged and held closed with a small magnet – a nice touch! Inside the box is a colophon/text sheet describing the project and the package of prints. I was impressed – the small details took it to the next level. Take a look in the video below.

Check out more of Simon’s photography at his website here and take a look at his videos at his YouTube channel here.

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: Stephen Voss

After digging back into Masao Yamamoto’s work recently his bonsai pictures caught my attention which reminded me of the book of bonsai photographs that I have in my collection. Published in 2016 In Training is a book created by Stephen Voss. I’m surprised that I didn’t know much about Stephen until I looked him up this morning and boy was I surprised. Stephen is a DC based freelance photographer, take a look at his website and you’ll see many faces that you recognize. It’s somewhat incongruous that his book, his first as he notes in the video below, is a book of bonsai trees.

To support the book Stephen created a website, that has additional videos of the trees and a behind the scenes video of him at work. The bonsai trees are at the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum in Washington DC. If you’re interested in learning more about photographing bonsai trees Stephen now writes regularly for the museum’s website. His blog posts are well worth checking out for both the new photographs as well as the insight into photographing bonsai.

For more information about Stephen Voss check out his website and instagram page and the bonsai focused website for behind the scenes information on the In Training book project. As I write this the book is on sale at his website making it even easier to get a copy of this great book.

A Journey into Bonsai

Rocky Mountain Juniper no. 40

Bonsai is something that I’ve been interested in for a really long time. Bonsai are in essence miniature trees. They can be found on rare occasions in nature, such as the one in the image below, when a seed lodges in soil on a rock (or log!) germinates and grows into a natural bonsai. More commonly bonsai are created by growing trees in containers. Bonsai literally translated means tray planting.

Bonsai really is an art, with the intent to make the trees look as, or perhaps more, beautiful than the counterpart in the wild. All this takes skill, creativity and patience. Bonsai are living things that take time to respond to the shaping, that take time to look ‘natural’. Bonsai trees in museums, arboretums and private collections can be hundreds or years old. One of the trees at the National Bonsai Museum in Washington DC is almost 400 years old and survived the Hiroshima bomb blast. Which makes the artisans that care for them stewards of the trees, taking care of them for the next generation.

Always keen to have a go I dabbled with a few of my own bonsai trees for a while. I don’t really have ‘green fingers’ though and so my bonsai trees ended up being donated to the team at New England Bonsai Gardens. I’m tempted to try again now that I’m older and a little more patient.

Recently I have been enjoying following the work of Anthony Fajarillo, @tonybonsaiko on instagram. He truly is an artist when it comes to training bonsai. To get a sense of his imagination and skill take a look at the windswept juniper before and after in the images below.

Windswept Juniper Before
Windswept Juniper After

I had drifted far from bonsai when ‘The Artisan Cup’ was held in 2015. This competition, really an opportunity to showcase top flight American Bonsai artistry, was the brainchild of Ryan Neil. Ryan is the founder of Bonsai Mirai, where he is really moving the needle for American Bonsai. He is living up to the high Japanese standards he learned during his apprenticeship in his work and expecting the community of craftsmen that provide the essential items such as handmade pots that complete the picture to strive for the same ideal. Get a glimpse of Ryan in action in the two videos below.

I’m disappointed to have missed ‘The Artisan Cup’ and the exhibition guide that accompanied the entries. Take a look behind the scenes in the video below.

The second Artisans Cup was supposed to have been held in Australia in 2020 – we all know how that went – let’s hope that it will be held again in 2025 when it is supposed to be back in the US again.

Looking at bonsai has certainly given me some food for thought and some ideas about how I might photograph full size trees in the wild.

Doing’ it for the ‘Gram

I learn all kinds of stuff by listening to my kids talk to their friends. Some of it immediately, some of it takes me a while to unravel.

It’s snowboard season here in New England which means trips to and from the slopes with groups of high school age kids for me. They are very much into making videos of their exploits to get feedback on how they are doing with learning tricks but also to post on social media. ‘Doin’ it for the ‘gram’ was the phrase used in a rather derogatory tone.

That got me thinking about what I post on social media and why and what are my expectations. I am playing a game with my posts on Instagram, or at least I have some simple rules that I am following. Must be shot and edited on my phone. No wireless transfer of files from any of my ‘fancy’ cameras, no transfer of files from the phone onto my computer for editing. All has to be done on the phone. Also the apps that I use can’t be mobile versions of Lightroom or Photoshop.

This of course is less of an amazing feat now that the phone cameras are so incredibly capable and produce high-res files. It goes without saying that phones themselves are way more powerful computers than the first desktop computers I worked with but then I grew up with a single rotary dial phone in the house if you catch my drift.

The result is a set of photos that are in effect sketches or studies. I’m trying out composition ideas using the phone and quickly processing using filters and effects in a small number of apps – typically Snapseed and VSCO. I’m often accused of being heavy handed with the processing – probably true, certainly lacking the kind of finesse possible on a desktop. Are these the high impact, portfolio best images that will garner lots of ‘likes’ not at all. But that’s not the point.

I’m having fun playing and don’t mind letting people look over my shoulder see my sketchbook develop.

How about you? How do you use social media?

What Would You Do If No One Was Looking? And Oh By The Way They Aren’t!

I woke up thinking about:

‘What would you do if no one was looking?’

And

‘What would you say if no one was listening?’

The answer for me is the same as if someone was looking and was listening. It’s about staying true to your values and having integrity.

About making the things that you want to make because those are the things that you need to make.

There’s freedom and opportunity in such a space. No constraints resulting from the expectations of others. No ties or obligations to what’s gone before preventing you from striking out in a new direction.

Certainly something to think about as we get going this week.

How about you? What you you do if no one was watching or so say if no one was listening?

A Walk in The Woods

I spent an afternoon over the weekend wandering around the local woods. Not hard to do in this part of Connecticut – everything seems to be in the Woods! It’s nice but I find it a little claustrophobic. Fortunately there are lots of ponds and lakes too which breaks up the walk nicely.

The ponds are now starting to catch the falling leaves. It will be snowing soon enough.

Friday Inspiration: Robert Adams

I have enjoyed Robert Adams’ writing about photography immensely. ‘Why People Photograph‘ and ‘Beauty in Photography‘ contain a series of short essays covering topics such as collectors, humor, teaching, money and dogs and discussions of Photographers such as Edward Weston, Paul Strand, Laura Gilpin, Judith Joy Ross, Susan Meiselas, Dorothea Lange, Ansel Adams, and Minor White. His recent book ‘Art Can Help‘ continues in a similar vein and is well worth picking up.

As a photographer however he’s someone that I feel I should like but his photographs just don’t move me. It was interesting then to come across the two videos below and listen to him talk about what he’s trying to achieve with his work.

Check out the videos below and tell me what you think.