Monday, October 27, 2008

SoFoBoMo participation

enchanted forest

Paul Butzi has an interesting post looking for feedback from those who started but didn't finish SoFoBoMo last year. The hope is that we can perhaps tweak the process to get even more finished works this time around. I wrote a longish, rambling response, touching on concepts of fear and scope, that I'll repeat here with some changes. I've been reading books like Art & Fear by David Bayles &Ted Orland and The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. I think those are influencing my views for now. Please feel free to comment here or over on Paul's blog post about your SoFoBoMo experiences and what you might like to see changed to help you finish.

I wonder how much of the non-finished attempts could be more honestly chalked up to fear and internal self-doubt. I don’t expect many or any participants to own up to this one, other than maybe to themselves. I know I had a lot of doubt about what I was doing along the way. Fear is a powerful motivator in this artistic thing. Fear of it not being good enough, fear of people not getting it. Worried that you are just wasting your time and other people’s that will get to view the pictures.

The naggy self-censor in your head kicks in and tells you what a joke it is and nobody would want to look at it. Or you start comparing against what other people have done and just know,know that what you are doing doesn’t measure up. So if it isn’t good enough, why embarrass yourself publicly. Easier just to to stop now. Stop wasting your time and do all those other things that you need to do that are more important, that you know how to do and people won’t laugh at you for doing.

Or maybe it isn’t art and you don’t aspire to be an artist with your camera. It’s all just taking pictures and then its easy. Or perhaps you do aspire to be an artist with your camera and are concerned you’ve got nothing to say. Put it in a book and everyone will realise there’s nothing to say in your head. No voice. Boring. Hide it away again.

The time pressure was a realistic issue with SoFoBoMo. Much to do, little time to do it, particularly if you think of the ‘final’ product as an actual final product. The National Novel in a Month looks at the output as a first draft - expecting heavy revision - but it is about getting it done, down on paper as a starting point. I suspect the album in a month challenge is similar - those aren’t supposed to be the final cuts of the tracks - just getting them recorded once and into something you can then move forward.

So maybe we set the bar a bit high with aiming for a finished book? Maybe a finished draft would be better, with an expectation of further editing to come.

I would be really curious to know how many SoFoBoMo entries went beyond the end of the month to further revise and reprint and improve? I know for mine I did very little tweaking - done was done. I reprinted with a different cover finish, but didn’t change the book at all, other than a slight re-tweaking of the image colours to suit the print output of the first print. Maybe SoFoBoMo needs another piece 6 months offset from the initial draft, where we tidy up and finish the work? Maybe re-edit, tweak, reconsider etc and really make the final book with a less biased and involved eye?

But really I think deep down, the internal voices that say stop wasting your time kill projects like this a whole lot more often than real world pressures - there's always time if you really think it is important enough. If you can keep the nagging voices quiet for a few days at a time to get it finished.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

the mindful eye

lichtin plaza

Craig Tanner and some friends have started a new site, called the Mindful Eye. Should be worth a look. There is already quite a bit of content available.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


and so, it begins. I'm wondering if I set my personal bar too high in '08.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

sofobomo, motivation, rambling, angst


I've felt a bit lost in my photography recently. Surgery and recovery have no doubt not helped, but I don't feel that I'm making the progress in the directions I'd like to move. Problem is I'm not sure what those directions are. Often it seems easier to define what I want to do by looking at the negative spaces. I can more easily describe the areas of photography that I'm not interested in doing, than clearly point towards what I do want to do.

The one thing I do know, is I _do_ want to do. The enthusiasm is there. The itch is back with a vengeance. Reading about photography, looking at photography, thinking about it. All there, just not so much of the doing for now.

Someone recently asked when was the last good picture I'd taken and looking back over the year, it is clearly the SoFoBoMo images that I turn to as my favourites. But that was back in March and April. Have I really not done anything satisfying since then? There have been a few shoots that I enjoyed - the red nose portraits, the creative lighting class, but mostly I feel like I've been cooling my heels and not heading in the direction I want to go (wherever that might be).

So I feel lost in a maze of twisty passages, all alike. Clear ideas of where I don't want to go but no ideas for where I do want to go. Anyone have a map? I think the differentiating thing about SoFoBoMo was that it was a cohesive body of work. The project helped the images hang together, at least in my mind, making them more interesting. The closest similar shots are the red nose portraits. Funny each in isolation, but stronger together due to the common element.

I have several project ideas floating around, but I seem to be unable or unwilling to commit the time required to find out if they are any good. Not sure why - typical artistic fear? Or maybe I just haven't got a well enough defined idea of what they should be. I feel like I'm waiting for something to land in my lap, rather than pushing forward towards... something... that I don't really know what it is.

My brief foray into sketching has brought me to some interesting blogs and websites that I wouldn't have looked at before. A couple of articles worth reading on finding inspiration or generating ideas, for example.

Next step would be finding the courage of my convictions and shooting something for more than a day or two. Maybe I need something like SoFoBoMo to push me onwards. Anyone ready for round two?


Nancy racing the Austin Triathlon in today's Austinist Thanks to Jane for pointing it out.

Sunday, October 19, 2008



Managed to get outside today and take a few pictures. Looking forward to being able to walk again.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

legs and watch

legs and watch

Trying to teach myself how to sketch and draw a bit better. I think being able to draw might help my photography, working on observing the world more closely and spending time thinking about composition.

Part of this exercise included trying to find something suitable to draw on. I've got a big sketch pad with me on this trip and I've been scribbling on the back of business cards. Something in between would be useful, like a sketchbook. I'd always thought that moleskine was the only real option out there, but there are entire blogs like Black Cover devoted to finding alternative little black notebooks.

Anyway, I'm stumbling along in the early stages of putting pen and pencil to paper. I'll post occasional results along the way to share my embarassment and also see if it can influence my photography, or vice versa.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

$20 lessons and other links

A mix of links and ideas for this post.
  • This idea, gave me the thought of trying it with artists, rather than entrepreneurs. I'm back to trying to work out why I take pictures, what I want to do with it, where to go. I'm thinking maybe I can use this lunch idea with a slight spin to generate some inspiration. Will see how this goes. I have a few people in mind.
  • I've read the 2point8 blog on occasion and really enjoyed No Flash Corner in the past. Recently found this series of thoughts on ways of working and doing street photography. A different approach to what works for me but certainly worth reading and thought provoking. What I like the most about No Flash Corner is that it is all about seeing and using great light. That really appeals to me.
  • Mark Tucker mentions wanting business cards with the job title of face collector. That also appeals to me. It's rattled around in my head for about a week now. The vast majority of my photography in the last year has been just that - collecting and studying faces of all types.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


jackson pollock
Things I want to be doing:
  • learning to draw
  • finishing a draft of my book
  • taking interesting pictures of strangers
Things I end up doing instead:
  • watching House
  • playing Xbox games
  • reading and writing blog posts

Monday, October 13, 2008

through their eyes


Paul's post reminded me of one of the things I've really enjoyed on the few workshops I've been on. You go out with a group of variously talented photographers and set up in typically beautiful locations. The place is pregnant with great photographic opportunities and everyone shoots their heart out. Later that week, everyone shares their best images or favourite images, or favourite, best images. Typically there are a few that make you think 'where were they?' How could those images have been made in the place that I was, with those other people.

It always inspires me, seeing how others see locations that I've been in, particularly at the same time. There's always more pictures to be made in any given place than you could ever hope to take. Seeing through someone else's eyes is a great way to find out what you might be missing. I'm thinking of getting a group of people together to try to explore this - explicitly no copying, just seeing what we can find.

Monday, October 06, 2008

xdrtb Harrowing images by James Nachtwey. Worth taking the time to look at the images and consider.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

suggest a workshop for 2009


I've been on a few different photographic workshops over the last eight years. A few RMSP landscape workshops. The great Next Step workshop from Radiant Vista, local classes, trips to Tuscany. I get a lot out of spending a focused week just shooting and talking with other photographers. It's usually a great time too. I'm thinking about doing something in 2009 - anyone got suggestions or recommendations? Anything out there that's caught your eye or something that you've already done that you'd recommend? Comments welcome, even along the lines of don't be silly, don't waste your money, go do this instead...'

a mixed bag of lighting

amanda kevin

A couple of common themes for portraits in the last week. I did a lighting class last weekend and found while doing the more controlled, constructed lighting was interesting, I was still spending more time playing around with the ambient and trying to accentuate the lighting in the location. I'm not sure if I just don't really have the imagination to see completely contrived lighting, or I think really, I'm just not motivated enough to want to create it all from scratch. I do like finding the interesting light already available, then trying to build on that. I did some shots using strobes and adding in lighting, but I was still mostly working with the light I could find. One that I like was where I replaced the existing light with a strobe to essentially mimic what was there already - but being able to shoot at a much lower ISO and smaller aperture. It was in a hallway with a bare bulb hanging in the ceiling (below right) and I liked the light quality. With some help I put a strobe and a small softbox up in the same place, getting very similar light but slightly less harsh. A grid over the softbox helped control the fall off and edges, to shape it a bit more. I'd picked this hallway for the blocky green and orange wall paintings and thought it'd play well with the checked dress the model was wearing. All that I think works well, along with the lighting - but I struggle with posing a full body. That's why so much of my photography is tighter head and shoulders shots - fewer limbs to position and deal with.

kevin samantha

Another theme has been shooting using windows and mixing in the daylight with the available indoor light, playing with the mixed colour temperatures that you find around those edges. Eric Ogden has many portraits shot with the window actually in the frame, blowing out behind the subject and I tried a bit of that with the portrait of Amanda above. Just put the meter on center spot to ignore the background and shoot for these - nothing too clever going on. I like how the outdoor light turns slightly blue when her skin is balanced for the indoor light - made a bit stranger by the fact we were in a predominantly green-walled restaurant which added some unique colour casts to the shot. I also used an old idea of shooting through glass, for the second shot of Kevin, above, using the neon lights in the bar we were in, along with an empty, slightly dirty pint glass in front of the lens to create the coloured flare.

I've also been thinking about and cropping nearly all the shots over the last week to a square format. I've been shooting with that crop in mind and just seeing how it works for me. I doubt there will be a Hasselblad anywhere in my near future but that different crop has been interesting to work with. I'm blaming looking at Mark Tucker's portraits for that particular influence. I don't think it is something I'm going to keep doing much longer but it was interesting to try adding another arbitrary constraint into how I was shooting for a short time. It certainly changes how you arrange things in a frame.

Another shot, (below) was lit using the available light and the modeling lights of the alien bee strobes that we were using. I'm not sure that that really counts as using the strobes properly, but any light that's available counts. the modeling light is low to the camera right, balancing with the wall light fixture. This could be another example of me only being able to see what the continuous sources give well and not having enough experience to predict how the brief strobe will act, but I much prefer working with the continuous light sources - it seems to suit my biases and process. Maybe I should be thinking about video more!