Friday Inspiration: Danny Gregory

The Art of Breakfast: a film about Danny Gregory from DannyGregory on Vimeo.

Being able to draw always seemed to me to be something mystical, reserved for the special few, when I came across Danny Gregory’s book ‘Everyday Matters‘ I was sucked in – it intersected two things that I was interested in teaching yourself to draw as an adult and living intentionally everyday. Since 2007, when I first came across the book, I’ve followed the ups and downs of Danny Gregory’s life through his blog and his books. His output shows that it is possible to have a very active publishing career while also balancing the demands of a family and busy career – Danny was a copywriter and creative director for an ad agency for a number of years.

Everyday Matters‘ was a reaction to the accident that Danny’s wife had on the New York Subway that left her paralysed from the waist down. It’s a sad story that concludes in his book ‘A Kiss Before you Go‘.

Since ‘A Kiss Before You Go‘, Danny has left his job at the ad agency and started ‘Sketchbook Skool‘ which looks like fun and lets him work with many of his friends, friends whose work he’d previously shared in his books of pages from their sketchbooks.

For more from Danny including his first feelings on receiving ‘A Kiss Before You Go, check out the videos below:

Jane LaFazio interviews Danny Gregory from DannyGregory on Vimeo.

Danny Gregory at VCU – part 1 from DannyGregory on Vimeo.

Danny Gregory at VCU – part 2 from DannyGregory on Vimeo.

Danny Gregory at VCU – part 3 from DannyGregory on Vimeo.

A Kiss Before You Go: First feelings from DannyGregory on Vimeo.

Get ‘Em While You Can

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I’m back home again after a a family holiday at the beach. I don’t know how you travel but for us we always have somewhere to be and while our trips may take us through gorgeous parts of the country we’re always too time crunched to stop to explore. As we zipped across Shelter Island, somewhere I’d like to explore further, the image at the top of the page came to mind. It’s a view across Crescent Lake. I was obviously drawn to the reflections in the mirror smooth lake. At the time I was zipping down to Forks but decided that since there wasn’t any pressure to be in Forks at a particular hour I’d stop. I spent probably 20 or 30 mins photographing at this spot, working out of the back of my car with the music blaring. Most certainly a good time. I never saw the lake flat enough any other time during my visit to the Olympic National Park for this kind of reflection. If I’d done what I was thinking which was to ‘get it on the way back’ the shot wouldn’t have been there.

What was also cool was another photographer pulled in behind me and introduced himself – Jack Graham – a very familiar name to me. I’d looked at his guide to photographing in washington state and at his workshops as part of my researching potential ONP workshops. At the time I ended up going with Art Wolfe but having met Jack and emailed him a few times afterwards I’d recommend his workshops any day.

This experience not only underscores the need to get the shot when you can but also that by getting off the usual rails that we run on we may stumbling into interesting opportunities.

Alison Shaw Workshop: Thoughts & Comments

I’m just back from a week on Martha’s Vineyard to attend Alison Shaw’s workshop. It was a really fun week, great to catch up with old friends and make some new ones and to immerse myself in photography.

Like most of life, you get out of a week long workshop what you put into it. That means being at the location an hour before sunrise and staying at the evening locations until well after the sun has gone down. That makes for some very long days, especially if you try to edit photos when you get home in the evening. By mid-week everyone is a little punchy, filters are gone and everyone is in the groove.

This was the second time I’d visited Martha’s Vineyard, the first time was for Alison’s workshop last year. As a consequence the novelty factor is still very high for me even with places that most people are very familiar with such as Edgartown or Menemsha. While we went to some of my favorite spots, Lucy Vincent Beach and Vineyard Haven Harbor being high on that list, there were a few new places included in this workshop. We made it over to Chappaquiddick and after a stop at Mytoi, the Japanese garden, we headed for East Beach. While East Beach does not have the spectacular surf that Lucy Vincent Beach has there were enough photo opportunities to make the trip well worthwhile. One of the things that I appreciate about the locations that we visit is that they are rich with photographic opportunities, so even someone like me is able to come up with 3, 4 or more different photographs at each location.

Alison has an easy going nature and teaching style that she is able to adapt to the level of the student. While I could imagine some workshops being all about the instructor leading them, that’s not the case here. You get as much help as you need. While there is plenty of in the field instruction from Alison and a reasonable amount of classroom instruction, for me the real learning comes from the critique sessions. Alison was commenting on 80 + images every day, remarkably many were very different even though we were all at the place. I found that while I learned a lot from the critiques of my images, I learn just as much from the critiques of the other students.

For the September workshops Alison is usually assisted by Donna Foster. Donna splits her time between Charlotte, North Carolina and Martha’s Vineyard. I can’t say enough good things about Donna. Last year she really talked me off a ledge when I was in Menemsha and lost for something to shoot – if you’ve never been, think rusty junky old stuff and lots of it. Then took the time to review my images that I had brought with me and showed me that yes I was actually improving by sequencing and commenting on them. It was the boost I needed.

The week is rounded off by a group dinner and show. It was fun to see the progression in everyone’s work from the start of the week to the end of the week. I had an excellent time and look forward to spending another week with Alison in 2012.

Book Comment: Outdoor Photography Masterclass – Niall Benvie

I’ve been trying to understand the key elements of ‘Intimate Landscapes’ – I’m still a long way from them making even vague sense to me – but I am looking at as many photographs as I can in this style and reading as much as I can too.  Niall Benvie‘s article in Outdoor Photography about ‘Deconstructed landscapes’.  You can find a version of the article on his blog here, certainly worth a read.

I enjoyed the article enough to look up his books and came across Outdoor Photography Masterclass.  Against my better judgement, since I’m trying to ween myself off ‘how to’ books,  I ordered it and spent last weekend flipping through it.  The book is broken up as though it were a 3 day workshop.  I haven’t gotten deeply into the specifics of workflow, basic processing etc., – it seems like the usual affair, generally solid advice, perhaps a little dated.  A minor quibble for instance – I’m using 8 GB memory cards, shooting raw I get about 280 images per card.  I generally delete the out of focus stuff and keep the rest.  It’s quite possible for me to have at least 8 GB of images from a morning or evening shoot more than will fit onto the DVD recommended for archiving purposes.

What I really liked were the more thought provoking short essays at the end of each chapter, covering topics such as ‘How Should we Critique Outdoor Photography’ and ‘Creativity, Style & Vision’.  I would have been happy to have a book full of these and I’m happy to have bought Outdoor Photography Masterclass for these writings if nothing else.

To find more of Niall’s writings, and I recommend that you do!, a great place to begin with is the blog ‘Images from the Edge‘ that Niall collaborates on with Clay Bolt, Paul Harcourt Davies & Andrew Parkinson.  Niall is also a regular contributor to the UK magazine Outdoor Photography.  This can be hard to find in the US but is available as an iPad app and well worth having a look.  Lots of good stuff to dig into.

Along the Shore

Along the Shore

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.

Still Motion

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.

Maine Islands Workshop

Last weekend I was at John Paul Caponigro’s Maine Islands Workshop.  The workshop appealed to me because it was based in a part of Maine I hadn’t previously explored and it was an opportunity to work with John Paul.  For the uninitiated, John Paul is a fine art landscape photographer whose work often blurs the line between photography and painting.  I was initially more familiar with his work as a master printer since he was referenced by many of the photographers I have paid attention to.  After poking around on his website I realized that JP could be the photography mentor that I have been looking for, someone who could help me become more like me.

I was more than a little bit intimidated in signing up since I felt that John Paul attracted people that were already very good and were pushing to be more creative.  I really needn’t have worried.  John Paul’s relaxed demeanor helped to foster a very supportive environment that made for good weekend.

As an added bonus Kevin Ames was part of our group.  I was familiar with Kevin through his book ‘The Digital Photographer’s Notebook’ so this was real surprise to get a chance to meet him and see him in action.  Kevin has a great sense of humor and was fun to be around.  He’s also a great resource for imaging possibilities in photoshop which came in very handy.  I’m looking forward to bumping into him again.

The subtitle of the workshop was ‘Illuminating Creativity’, so it shouldn’t have been a surprise that at each of the shoots John Paul gave the group an exercise – shoot a photograph that’s a noun, make the postcard image and then make a more creative one.  What this did was to shift my thinking.  I have a specific project that I am working on that I half thought I would come close to finishing at this workshop but what actually happened was that I tried a lot of things that I wouldn’t have otherwise.  I made some images that I like, I have a few ideas that I will pursue further and I have a better sense of why my duds are just that duds.

It was an odd sensation but I came away from the workshop feeling the same way I did when I got into graduate school – an ending but also the first step on a grander adventure.