Saturday, December 20, 2014

Published In Urban Explorer

The Sound of Silence - Mojave, California
I just got word that six of my abandonment photographs have been published in the January 2015 issue of Urban Explorer Magazine. Yea!

Urban Explorer is a brand new magazine (this is issue one, volume one). It's about creepy abandoned buildings and the people who visit them and photograph them. Check it out!

I'm just happy that someone out there finds my abandonment images interesting. Sometimes I wonder if I'm the only one. Now I have a little more excitement to keep the project moving forward.

Photography & Money

Setting Sun Over Tejon #1 - Stallion Springs, California
I was listening to the radio yesterday, and this financial expert said something interesting. He was talking about how most people tend to live above their means. People will spend all of the money that they have and all of the money that they can borrow. This only hurts them long term.

What specifically he said (and I apologize for not remembering his name) was, "In our society, people want others to believe that they are rich."

I recently had someone tell me that my camera was not good enough. He said that I should have saved a little more money and bought a higher-end DSLR instead of the Nikon D3300. My camera was "ok" for beginners (although, even for that, it wasn't ideal), but it was most certainly beneath someone more experienced.
Mystery Drive - Stallion Springs, California
This person thinks that my photography is good. My photographs are not the problem, it is my equipment that he has issues with.

I was really confused by this. How is it that my photographs are good but the tool used to create them is not? The image is what matters in photography. What the viewer sees is what matters. Why should it make any difference what was used to create it? The viewer certainly doesn't care. He only cares if the image strikes him or moves him in some way. Either he'll find something to attract and interest him or her and the person will spend time looking at it, or he or she won't and the person will quickly move on to something else.

Photographs are what makes photography meaningful, not cameras.
Evening At Tunnel View - Yosemite National Park, California
Over at The Luminous Landscape (which sometimes posts gold and sometimes posts rubbish) they published an "equipment of the year" article. In it they said:
"One word before we start--whenever a discussion of cameras comes up a cliche proclaimed among some self-appointed web forum thought police is--'It's not the camera, it's the photographer.' Right. We get it. You've now impressed us with how insightful you are. But in the world of music, there are few serious musicians, let alone performing pros, who wouldn't prefer working with a Strad or a Steinway. Good artists are made better through the use of the best tools. Enough said."
I guess Ansel Adams was part of the "thought police" when he said, "The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it." The fact is that good artists can use any tools to create good art.
On A Brighter Day - Tehachapi, California
I think of David Burnett and his famous photograph of Al Gore. He used a cheap plastic camera called Holga to capture it. This camera is quite literally the opposite of "the best tools." Yet it was in fact the best tool for the image. If Burnett had used the latest Canon, Nikon, Leica, etc., the photograph would not have been the great image that it is.

I think of Michael Chrisman and his famous one-year-exposure photograph. He used a home-made pinhole camera to capture it. Again, this is the opposite of "the best tools" and yet the perfect tool for the photograph.

I think of Chase Jarvis and his cell phone photographs. "The best camera is the one that's with you," he said. That's also the title of his book that features nothing but cell phone images.
Gold Above The Valley - Stallion Springs, California
I could go on-and-on-and-on with examples. I could even give examples of successful musicians using instruments that many would not consider "the best tools." It doesn't matter. I don't need to justify the use of "lesser" tools. My photographs speak for themselves.

What I find is that those who spend gobs of money to have "the best tools" seem to have a need to justify that. And those who say that equipment doesn't matter get in the way of that justification.

The funny thing is, though, that "the best tools" that they're talking about are not, in fact, the best. The "best" digital cameras today cannot match the image quality of a large format film camera from 75 years ago. Photographers are continuously choosing convenience over quality. That's the history of photography: convenience often trumps pure image quality.
Cathedral Spires From Cook's Meadow - Yosemite National Park, California
Camera technology moves us forward with smaller, lighter, faster and more automatic. With each advance comes a sacrifice to image quality. Once upon a time what we now call large format was the standard format. The cameras were big and heavy and the film (or glass or metal) difficult and expensive. So along came what we now call medium format. And then 35mm (which some now call the standard format). Then APS-C. Then micro-four-thirds. And so on and so on.

But here is the truth: pure image quality is not an essential element to successful photography. That's why having "the best tools" is not important.

Those who spend tons and tons of money on photography equipment often have G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrom). They seem to have a need to acquire more and more, and are never truly satisfied. I know this because I also had G.A.S., but found relief.
Purple Thistle Blossom Macro - Stallion Springs, California
I think there are three basic reasons why people have G.A.S.

First, camera manufacturers and camera retailers do an excellent job of convincing us that we need the latest and greatest. There is some new innovation that will somehow transform the photographer into an even better photographer. However, there is no end to innovation. Every few months there will be something new. One can chase this indefinitely and never find satisfaction.

Second, as the financial expert at the top said, people want others to think that they are rich. If you have expensive equipment, you must be talented and successful. And if you don't, you must be a hapless amateur. The tools you use say a lot about who you are and your station in life. However, they say nothing about your images, which is what is supposed to matter most.
Wind Turbines - Tehachapi, California
Third, there is a misconception that price equals results. There are some who think that great photographs can be bought. Great photographs can indeed be bought... by collectors. But no amount of money thrown at equipment can create a photograph that a collector wants to purchase. Art is in the mind and heart, and not in the tools found in the artist's hands.

Great photography is about one thing: photographic vision. With vision, a photographer can use crummy equipment (like Burnett, Chrisman and Jarvis above) and create great works of art. Without vision, even "the best tools" will fail to produce anything of value.

The Luminous Landscape said that good artists are made better through the use of the best tools. But I have found that limitations improve art and less is more in photography. Photography should be uncomfortable.
Flag & Flare - Barstow, California
Maybe I am cliched. Maybe I am acting as the thought police. Or perhaps those guys at "LuLa" (as they sometimes call themselves) are bloated with G.A.S., and by not limiting themselves, by saying "more is more" in photography, and by seeking convenience, maybe--just maybe--they are actually stifling their own art. Maybe with more focus on vision and less on gear they could achieve even greater photographic success.

It's not for me to change their minds. I can only work on my own art and share my own thoughts here.  But perhaps these words will ring true for someone, and they'll be found beneficial.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Magazines Are Expensive - Blogs Are Free

Even Uneven - Tehachapi, California
I mentioned yesterday that I'm currently serving jury duty. On my lunch break today I headed over to a book store to grab a photography magazine to help entertain myself.

I was shocked! Not at the selection. Not at the quality. Not at the content. The price stickers gave me sticker shock!

Magazines apparently are not affordable anymore.

The most expensive photography magazine was $30. There were a couple options at $20 and a couple at $15. Most were in the $11-$13 range. I found only three photography magazines for under $10.

Now many issues were "specials" wrapped in plastic. Some included CDs or DVDs or something else not typically found in a magazine. A few were particularly large.

Magazines make most of their money from advertisements. The news stand price typically pays for the unsold copies, and sometimes add a little to the profits. Most of the money doesn't come from the readers, but those hoping to sell something to the reader.

In reality, most magazines could sell their publication for $1 and still make a profit. It may not be an ideal profit, but perhaps the cheaper magazine will get more buyers and can then charge the advertisers more.

I personally won't pay over $10 for an issue of a magazine. It's 50% ads. I'm paying to view ads. Maybe if the magazine was ad free I'd pay that much.

Better than magazines are blogs (like this one). The information can be just as good, but it's often published more quickly. And, if you read a lot of different blogs, you'll find more information than you ever could in a stack of magazines.

Blogs are good. Magazines are, too, if they're not so expensive.

Oh, and what does the image at the top have to do with anything? Absolutely nothing. I'm typing this post on my phone and it was convenient to use. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Quick Update

I haven't posted yet this week. Between jury duty (which is not only a duty, but an American privilege) and attempting to get through about 750 exposures from a wedding I recently photographed, I just haven't had the time. Not to mention the Christmas holiday season. Anyway, I have a number of quality posts planned that I hope to get to either later this week or early next week, so stay tuned. In the meantime enjoy this wonderful time of the year!

Friday, December 12, 2014

I Am An Artist - I Am A Photographer

Photography Is A Drug - Stallion Springs, California
I am an artist. Photography is my medium. Cameras and lenses are my tools.

Interestingly, the debate as to whether photography is actually an art form continues. I thought this was settled 100 or so years ago, but apparently I was wrong.

Here's my simple response: I'm an artist and photography is my artistic choice. If photography is not art, than I am not an artist. But I am an artist, so photography must be art. It has to be and it indeed is.

Art is the expression of creativity and imagination. For something to be called "art" it must be creative and imaginative. There are many photographs out there that lack both of those important attributes. Those photographs are not art. But there are also many photographs that are both creative and imaginative, and those images are indeed art.

Creativity and imagination may seem redundant--aren't they basically the same thing? Being creative is having the ability to make new things--original and tangible things. It's creating something that doesn't otherwise exist. Being imaginative is thinking new and interesting ideas. It is conceptual.

The way creativity and imagination work together is that one must first form a new and interesting thought (the concept), and then use that thought to create something that doesn't otherwise exist (the tangible). The thought alone is not enough and the creation alone is not enough. You need both to create art.

Photography is art when the artist photographer uses both creativity and imagination to create an image.  When the photographer has photographic vision he or she becomes an artist. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Abandonment: Contemporary Home - Mojave, California

Abandoned Home Front - Mojave, California
Close to several other abandoned houses (click here, here and here), this home near the desert town of Mojave stands unique. It's fairly new and modern. It looks like any home you might find in the average southwestern neighborhood. It doesn't seem like a place that would be abandoned.

Yet the home is abandoned. An expanding wind farm is why. And it appears that the occupants moved out in a bit of a hurry because they left things behind. There is a story here, I'm just not sure exactly what it is.  
The Patio - Mojave, California
I think of those who lived here. They bought the land and built a home. There are hopes and dreams that were left behind, as well as memories. The house may have doubled as work, as well--the crane next to the garage providing that clue.

I used a Nikon D3300 DSLR with a Nikkor 40mm AF-S DX f/2.8G Micro lens to capture these photographs. They were post-processed using Alien Skin Exposure 6 software.
Didn't Work Out - Mojave, California
Kitchen Faucet Handle - Mojave, California
Holy Blue Newborn Electrical Theory - Mojave, California
Tropical Dream - Mojave, California
Forgotten Memory - Mojave, California
Broken Chair Abandoned - Mojave, California
Bathroom Essentials - Mojave, California

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Peter Lik's "Phantom" Is The Most Expensive Photograph Ever (Plus A Lesson)

Phantom - Peter Lik
Photographer Peter Lik's monochrome image Phantom just sold at action for $6.5 million! That's a new record, beating out Andreas Gursky's Rhein II

The image is of Antelope Canyon in Arizona. It has been photographed many times over. In fact, a color image of this same location by Lik sold for over one million dollars.

Phantom is obviously a special photograph. You can tell just by looking at it. The textures, layers, and contrast work together well. But it is the almost human-like shape from the dust and light that make it stand out unique from the rest.

Interestingly, those photographers who pay close attention to histograms would never have captured this image. The highlights are obviously blown. The deepest shadows lack detail. Those who use histograms when capturing images would have seen that and cringed. Peter Lik broke the histogram "rule" and now is $6.5 million richer because of it. 

Photography rules are meant to be broken. Forget histograms. Forget "thirds" (as Lik did) or any other photography rule you've been told. Good things happens when those rules are ignored. That's because photography rules are meant to insure consistently good results, but rarely allow for great results.