Ohmu Breakwater

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With all the snow that we’ve been having here in New England you would think that I would have had time to finish working on my images from Japan wouldn’t you? A reasonable expectation but I’m swamped here at the moment. More about what’s going on in a few weeks.

I’ve mentioned here before that I generally take a lot of frames when I’m out shooting, particularly when I’m photographing water. With flowing water each frame will be different and potentially offer something unique. Also worth exploring is a range of shutter speeds – I generally try to keep some sense of motion in the water rather than blur the water completely with a very long exposure.

I’m still working on the image above – I’m happy with this version but will now live with this for a while to learn what I like and what I like to change.

Trouble with Tripods

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As I was setting up my tripod for this shot this summer as I collapsed, de-telescoped, closed or whatever you call it, one of the legs the rubber foot shot off sending me scrambling to find it. Luckily I did! The glue had finally given up on the Gitzo 1325 legs of my tripod. Not bad after taking a beating for 8 years. I got a two part adhesive and glued it back in place and my tripod problems were over. Or at least I thought my tripod problems were over.

When I was using the tripod this week one i found that one of the legs was impossible to fully extend. Years of neglect had finally come home to roost. Photographing in and around the ocean means that your gear takes a pounding. Ideally you would rinse the salt water off your gear with fresh water. There are obvious problems doing that with cameras and lenses but you can and should do some clean up of your gear with a soft damp cloth after you’ve been out. I do this as needed after every shoot but I’ve never properly cleaned my tripod. This has largely been out of fear of getting the tripod to pieces and not being able to get it back together again.

I actually found that taking the tripod to pieces was much easier than I’d expected. On the old Gitzo that I have it’s simply a matter of unscrewing the leg lock the whole way and then pulling on the leg. The one that was stuck needed me to stand on the head of the tripod and then yank hard on the leg. Eventually it yielded to force! While the tripod was in pieces I took the opportunity to clean up the threads both on the leg and on the screw lock. The leg locks had been making awful grinding noises for years, presumably from sand and salt getting in there. This was easy enough to do with a rag for the legs and a toothbrush to get into the locks. As an aside I had always been taught to extend the tripod fattest section first, which of course meant that the lower section lock ended up under water the first time I used the tripod at the beach. While this advice is generally sound I typically have the lower section extended the width of my hand – about 4 inches – and then when working at the beach this is the first section that gets extended.

At the top of the tripod legs I found 3 bushings – two plastic and one that could easily be carbon fiber. Trying to get the legs back together was a little tricky and after a little bit of trial and error I realized that it was the plastic bushings causing the problems. I took these off the tripod and wound them into a tighter circle and then when they went back on the tripod the plastic stayed in this tighter configuration long enough to allow me to reassemble the whole thing relatively easily,

It was quite an educational process and easy enough that I could have been doing regularly all along!

Developing Projects

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I’ve been going back through the archives looking for images that could be used to extend exisiting projects and identify themes to be developed for new projects. It can be a nice surprise to find images that were previously overlooked, a little bit like finding money in a coat when you wear it for the first time in a long time.

One of the things that I’ve been doing while I look through my images is to set up smart collections in lightroom that will be populated when certain criteria are met. I have a simple color scheme that I use to label my photos – I mark images that I’ve worked on green, ones that are to be worked on yellow and ones to be deleted red. All the photos labeled green (the keyboard shortcut to do this on the mac is simply by pressing the number 8) will then appear in my smart collection folder ‘selects’. I’m in the process of refining this collection using keywords that will then put images into project folders – ‘coast’ captures the images at the coast that I like so much, ‘trees’ is my tree project that is slowly coming along and ‘water abstracts’ is a project that came to light as I was going through the archive. The image above is one from the water abstracts collection. A screen grab of this collection is below.

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There’s definitely a ‘one of these things is not like the others’ element to this collection that I will need to resolve at some point, either by punting the offending image or building additional images into the set so that it is no longer a singleton. Having a number of clarified projects percolating in the background means that I’m sensitized to the opportunities for adding to these projects which will hopefully allow them to mature more rapidly.

How about you? Are you thinking about the images that you make in terms of projects? Any approaches, tricks, techniques or thoughts to developing projects that you want to share? I’d love to hear them

A Travel Photographer or A Photographer Who Travels

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I’ve been watching David (the Strobist) Hobby‘s video series ‘The Traveling Photographer‘ on lynda.com over the last few weeks. I’d resisted lynda.com for a very long time for no reason that I can put my finger but given the number of courses available (check out David Hobby’s other courses here) that I wanted to check out I finally took the plunge.

Watching David Hobby’s series I had a couple of thoughts. First I hadn’t put him in the travel photography camp, perhaps I should have?, and second I had a visceral reaction to the thought of ‘travel photography’ as a genre. It was an odd reaction and perhaps I was thinking largely of the cheesy postcard photos that are used to advertise high-end vacation spots, photographs that do little for me.

I’ve been traveling a good bit this year and while I wouldn’t put myself in the travel photography camp, it’s clear to me that I’m a photographer that travels. This was brought home to me when I mentioned to a friend that I was heading out to iceland and they commented on the potential for great photography. While this is true, some might argue that Iceland as a photo tour destination is now somewhat a cliche, what I’ve increasingly found is that regardless of where I go I end up taking photographs that in essence I could have taken anywhere. I’m drawn to particular things, water in the landscape, rocks, intimate landscapes and abstract details. I’m compelled to take photographs of these things, to the exclusion of perhaps more obvious grand vistas. I find that I even like particular colors or combinations of colors and will be more attuned to potential photographs with those colors than others.

Travel for me broadens the range of opportunities to find combinations of the things that I’m interested in that I haven’t seen before. What are the reasons you travel?

Friday Inspiration: Hans Strand

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I’ve been taking a look at how people have photographed Iceland in the last few weeks. One of the photographers that came up time and time again in my searching was Hans Strand. Strand is a landscape photographer based in Sweden who has a solid body of work from more than 15 visits to Iceland over the course of 20 years. His landscapes are striking. While there is a mix of the grand landscape with more intimate landscapes, I suspect that the intimate landscapes are aerial shots that abstract the landscape. His aerial work was one of the key factors that separates his work from that of others in Iceland. For those interested in workshops, Strand’s Iceland workshops often include an aerial session, something worth consideration if you want a unique perspective.

Check out the Hasselbald promo video below that gives a behind the scenes look at Hans Strand at work in Iceland, photographing an active Eyjafjallajökull, the volcano that brought air traffic in Europe to a halt for weeks.

Friday Inspiration: Carleton Watkins

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I can’t remember where I first read about Carleton Watkins, perhaps it was this article in the Smithsonian magazine.  For someone like me, who thought that photography started with Ansel Adams, it was something of a revelation to read about and see Watkin’s photographs of the American west and particularly of Yosemite Valley.  While many of his photographs are stereograms the views of Yosemite are quite familiar.  It was his series of photographs of Yosemite Valley in the 1860s that helped influence Congress’s decision to make the valley a National Park in 1864.

There’s an exhibition of Watkin’s photographs at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University until August 17.  To find out more about the exhibition see here.  Unfortunately I’m in the wrong part of the country to be able to get to the exhibition but I did get the related book and have been enjoying looking at the photographs.

Recognizing many of the views made famous through the work of Ansel Adams in the Yosemite Valley made me think about what Ansel Adams brought to the table.  Perhaps not his vision but his superior control of the medium and printing abilities?

Check out the video below for more details on the exhibition at the Cantor Arts Center.

Transformations

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Forgive me if I’m in danger of beating this horse to death but my recent weight-loss success has made me wonder if the same approach that I used for weight loss could be used to affect transformation in other parts or my life – personal finance and creativity/photography being just two areas of interest.

In many ways losing weight was easy – Tim Ferris had done much of the heavy lifting for me already. Tim Ferris is the author of the ‘Four Hour’ Series of books – Four hour work week, four hour body, four hour chef. The titles are super cheesy and I must admit that I read the four hour work week with a high level of skepticism. Certainly for someone like me it’s hard to imagine how I could engineer to work remotely, managers after all serve the people that report into them and so to do that job effectively you need to be available to help with whatever’s going on. In any case, Ferris’s books are case studies in learning. How to subvert the established way of doing things and get maximal results for minimal amounts of effort.  Once you cut through to this central idea his books get much more interesting.

My weight loss started with the slow carb diet that Ferris describes in detail in his book Four Hour Body and which is described briefly here. I had to make some changes to make this work for me – breakfast for me has to be a quick and easy affair even the quick breakfast wasn’t fast enough and microwaved spinach made me gag. I ended up with convenience foods for breakfast (a protein shake from Biotrust) and lunch (Cliff Protein Builder Bars) and then real food for dinner. I then took the same basic diet and applied Barry Sears Zone Diet to it – 40% carbs, 30% Fats, 30% protein. This involved weighing and measuring everything that I ate to make sure I was ‘in the zone’. Finally I began a strength, metabolic conditioning and mobility program that has me moving 6 days a week.

So here’s what I did:

* Followed a template that had been previously shown to work
* Experimented with the template to find something that worked for me
* Made small changes to my behavior, worked with them for two weeks and then incorporated additional changes for the next two weeks
* Measured my progress in as many ways as I possibly could
* Engaged accountability partners that supported, cajoled and encouraged me

While there aren’t easy to follow templates for everything that I want to work on there is a remarkable amount of information available making it possible to build case studies in the way that Tim Ferris has done for whatever you’re interested in. As I continue to explore this I’ll be sure to post more here.

In the meantime – What are you working on? What transformation would you like to make but are stuck with? Have you made a successful transformation? Did you use the steps outlined above? Something different? Any key practices to share? I’d love to hear about it.

A Beginning?

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How do you come up with ideas for new photography projects? A conscious decision? An organic development of an existing project? Or perhaps looking back through your archives and finding common themes.

Over the recent break I recently found the house in the photo above. While I was taking the photo a town worker gave me a brief history of the property. Clearly it’s abandoned and in a state of disrepair.

I see these abandoned properties everywhere, and while I’d wondered about who lived there, why did they leave and why is it now left to rot, I had never photographed them. Given my sensitivity to these abandoned properties it seems as though I should photograph them, at least until they’re out of my system.

What do you notice all the time? Perhaps that would make a good project?

Friday Inspiration: The Year in Review

I’ve been enjoying looking at other photographers ‘best of 2013’ selections and thought that I’d share a few of my favorite collections here. What are your favorites?

John Paul Caponigro: My Top 12 Images Of 2013

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Michael Frye: 2013: My Top Ten Images

Waves in the Merced River near Happy Isles, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

William Neil: My Favorite Photographs of 2013

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Harold Davis: My best of 2013

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Friday Inspiration: Edward Burtynsky – Water

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I find that I frequently return the work of photographers that have previously caught my attention. Edward Burtynsky is one such photographer. I had previously highlighted the retrospective of his work called Manufactured Landscapes and was pleased to see that he has recently completed a new project called Water.

One of the things that I am curious to see when I’m looking at new projects from familiar photographers is to see how their process has evolved, if at all. With Water, Burtynsky is no longer considering gravity as a constraint and uses a variety of tools that allow him to get the shot that he’s imagined, regardless of the vantage point. I’m not sure that I would be up for putting a Hasselblad on a model helicopter, especially after seeing Chase Jarvis’s experience, but sometimes you’ve got to do whatever it takes. Click on the link below to see a behind the scenes video of the making of Water.

Where I Stand – Edward Burtynsky from Flowers Gallery on Vimeo.