Well known artists given the camera club review technique.
Saturday, February 28, 2009
Friday, February 27, 2009
Spent a few minutes last night trying out an external flash on the G10. I used it with the Canon ST-E2, triggering a 580EX speedlight, firing into a custom built light tent (or a big cardboard box with panels cut out of the side). The shot of the G10 is taken with the 1DII with the 100mm macro lens. The shot of the EOS-1 was handheld with the G10 in macro mode. (note the slight difference in aspect ratio between the two cameras)
I was quite impressed with the control available on the G10, in all manual mode. You can switch the flash into full manual too and control the power output directly from the camera. You can also use the standard flash through the lens metering (E-TTL) and adjust the flash power up and down using flash exposure compensation. In this fairly easy lighting scenario, it did really well and produced a great quality image, even handheld. I've heard good things about using the G10 in a studio and it balances quite well with the ST-E2. Certainly better than putting a speedlight directly on top of the G10, which would really unbalance things. The 580EX is slightly bigger than the G10 itself.
For the G10 shot I held a sheet of paper up, just to the camera right of the shot to bounce some light back into the lens opening and add some more light. Small changes like that can make a surprising amount of difference. Overall it might be a subtle change but it can really make or break the feel of the shot.
From an indoor spin class, this evening. This time of year, much of the classes are done after dark or before sunrise. Not a lot of available light to work with. I'm hopeful that in a few weeks, when the clocks change and there is a bit more daylight, that I'll be able to work that into the shots. For now, I'm enjoying working with the artificial available light and living with and exploiting the softness and grain that comes with that. My radio poppers arrived today, (thanks to TriCoast Photography) and I'm thinking about starting to work in a little bit of strobe to some of these shots. But I still like the softness and blur.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
One notion that stood out for me in The Creative Habit was a section describing her frustration with trying to create narrative works of dance. Twyla Tharp is known for her abstract, conceptional dance pieces. At one point she tried to create works that had more of a sense of story and flow to them and found that she really struggled to create in that style. While reading Carl Kerenyi's Dionysos she was introduced to the Greek concepts of zoe, which deals with the whole world (it is a root of the word zoology) and bios, which deals with individual narrative stories (a root of biography). She came to the conclusion that she works well in the more abstract, global zoe style but really didn't have a knack for dealing with the bios. Emily Shur appears to express a similar concern, that everyone tells her that she should be working on photographic projects as the way to grow, but her mind just doesn't work that way. She'd much rather explore the whole world and find the pieces that interest her, rather than settle in to focus on a bios narrative photo-essay. She seems to be finding gallery representation or acceptance difficult as a result because everyone wants to see projects presented in the bios mode of creation, while her approach is looking at the whole zoe.
I've noticed this myself if you look at artworks in a coffee store - those typically aren't the result of an Art world selection process and often display an ecclectic, disconnected mix of images, photographs or paintings. Often the greatest hits of the particular artist selected to display images (or who asked the cafe owner first). It is unusual to see any cohesive story or message in those images, other than the common creator of the work. Art gallery shows are almost always in the bios mode of a cohesive body of work on a particular theme or topic. Still often the same creator for all the images, but a much more heavily edited and selected body of work.
Perhaps some people are just wired to look at the whole rather than pull out individual stories and follow them. That's just how their creative DNA is. Projects and themes just might not be right for them as a means to creating great photographs and they could embrace that, rather than always feeling jealous or frustrated.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Don't worry about people stealing an idea. If it's original, you will have to ram it down their throats.
A while ago, I pointed towards a link suggesting ways to become a successful entrepreneur by having lunch with people who've already done well in business and listening to what they have to say. I took the idea and started applying it to my creative development. Over the last few months I've taken a few friends and acquaintances out to lunch and pestered them with questions about 'how they do it'. So far it has been great and well worth the time. I've had lunch with a couple of writers and photographers and received some really valuable perspectives. I also explored some of the projects I'm working on with them and got some great feedback.
One of them did ask me if I was concerned about sharing my ideas before the projects were finished. I think there are two approaches to this; one is to treat everything as a secret. The other is to shout the ideas from the rooftops and let as many people give you input as you can stand. I've found every time I involve another person in my work, I learn something new or get some insight that I'd never have thought of if I'd kept it all to myself. Often I think we are worried that someone will steal our ideas—but really the ideas aren't what is valuable, it is the execution of the idea that matters. Getting help there is what you need. There is a great creative energy that bounces back and forth when you get another person involved in your process. Also I've found that sharing your hopes and dreams with other people can often help you towards them. Someone will know a person who can help you, make a useful connection for you, move you forward.
All for the price of lunch—good value if you ask me.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
I still don't understand why people would put images on microstock sites, where they sell for less than a dollar for usage rights. As an example, I have 11 images on Alamy. Total income is over $1200 for 6 sales. I could have had the same images on a microstock site and made about $5. Don't sell yourself short. If your images are worth something, they are worth more than pennies.
Monday, February 23, 2009
Starting projects seems to be easy. Ideas are dime a dozen, always popping up, ready to pursued. But I find the starting bit easy. It is the follow-through that often saps my will. Even if the pictures are good it can become a struggle to keep turning up, time and again. I know from experience that each time I do, I'll see something new or exciting and get carried away. I'll find that productive, flowing place where the good pictures come from. But showing up can be such a battle. All the fears and doubts come rushing out. The idea is stupid. Nobody wants to see it. Who will care about the pictures? I'll be bothering people who have better things to do. It has been done better before. Over and again these voices in the head turn on the doubt and ridicule. Best solution is to just ignore them and get on with it. Just keep turning up and see what happens. Judge the results and the process when you've got the images in hand, not before. The job is to take the pictures not second guess the results before even turning up.
Muses, genius and other sources of inspiration or blame. Don't be afraid. Just show up. Do your job. Keep showing up.
Another week over, in Raleigh - now I'm back in Austin. Another week not working on "the book". It has gotten to the point of being in double quotes. It is weighing on my mind, like my PhD thesis did, for the 10 years it languished unfinished. A low level, constant gnawing block of guilt at the back of my consciousness. I watch TV to tune it out. I go to the gym to avoid it. Drink to keep it at arms length. Blogging seems like another surrogate of avoidance. "Hey look - I'm writing - that counts - doesn't it?"
So to make progress and get out of this minefield of creativity and productivity porn I've found myself in, I guess I have to take Pressfield's advice and turn pro. Same advice as I found in the Creative Habit. Same advice in Time to Write and in Creative Authenticity.
It all boils down to this - do some work. Day after day. Everything else takes care of itself after that one piece falls into place.
Just finished reading the War of Art by Steven Pressfield. Like many creativity books it does well describing the barriers and frustrations that all artists seem to share, but peters out when it tries to provide solutions. I think that's because the solutions are all fundamentally very simple and at the same time intensely personal. Pressfield describes all of the frustrations and barriers to creative work as being Resistance. Others call this fear, or procrastination. All the doubting voices and things that stop you starting or help you find something else to do. All the same thing really. His solution is to treat the thing you want to do as a job. You have to turn up, if you want to or not. Day in. Day out. Just get on with it, like you do with your real job. Do the work and the muse will come, the creativity will happen.
So productivity isn't a surrogate for creativity. It is not that we try be productive to be creative. Rather, productivity is a requirement for creativity. You have to be doing the work, putting the time in, for your creative sparks to have a chance to happen. The fickle flashes of brilliance don't come if you aren't vested in the process of making the bad stuff or everyday good stuff along the way to greatness. Turn up. Do the work. Each day. Every day.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
The more I write, the more I think. Getting each thought out on a page makes room for the next and on and on in progression. I've been doing morning pages, an idea from the Artist's Way, for about three months now, with occasional lapses. Each time I spend the half hour it takes me to write 3 or 4 pages long hand, I have new ideas. The initial ideas are always there, but capturing them on paper seems to give me the confidence to let that current idea go and move forward, rather than clinging onto the one idea and spinning in mental circles.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Print is very rarely the medium I work in. I've occasionally had comments about images as being hard to print or challenging to print and that takes me by surprise - because I almost never consider it. I compose for a small screen. I edit and finish for a small, self-illuminated display. This is how I work much of he time. I used to think of this a flaw or something to address - something I needed to improve upon. Maybe it still is. But that small, self-illuminated display is a valid medium in its own right. Many, and perhaps most, photographs these days are not destined for a physical print. I'm becoming at peace with this idea.
And then there is SoFoBoMo and the final book.
Friday, February 20, 2009
Check out TriCoast Photography's new blog. I just won a set of radiopoppers!
Posted by Unknown at 7:41 AM
Thursday, February 19, 2009
You know, Hitler wanted to be an artist. At eighteen he took his inheritance, seven hundred kronen, and moved to Vienna to live and study. He applied to the Academy of Fine Arts and later to the School of Architecture. Ever see one of his paintings? Neither have I. Resistance beat him. Call it overstatement but I'll say it anyway: it was easier for Hitler to start World War II than it was for him to face a blank square of canvas.
- The War of Art, Steven Pressfield
I posted 'resistance is futile' this morning, wondering about the twisting and turning people go through when faced with even fairly simple constraints. Today at lunchtime, I was going to eat alone and decided to pick up a copy of 'The War of Art' by Steven Pressfield, on the recommendation of Kirk Tuck, from his blog. Reading the book over lunch, I was amused to find out that Steven defines all the causes of procrastination, fear & doubt in art making as capital-R Resistance. A small coincidence, maybe, but maybe I'm on the right track. The book seems good so far. You can read the first few chapters, here.
Something funny I've noticed when people are faced with the SoFoBoMo concept. They love it. Want to take part. It's something they've always wanted to do. 'Sign me up!' they cry. They've read the rules. They get the concept.
Then the bargaining begins. Oh, I've already got the pictures, can't I just use them? hmm, 35 pictures are a lot, I'm sure I can only do 25, that'll be okay? May to June you say? Well, I'm going to start in April. Will it still count if I don't finish it until July?
Even with such a simple set of constraints, it is interesting to see how much we mentally fight and rail against them. 35 pictures or more. Taken between May and June. That's it - there is almost no constraint at all, and yet. and yet.
What's going on here?
Monday, February 16, 2009
SoFoBoMo '09 registration is up. Get in early!
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Triathlon is all about transitions. From the swim, to the bike to the run on race day. From every day life to training rides in the cold. From bed to swimming early in the morning. From work to running in the evening. Training back to normal life again. Back and forth, transition after transition. Swim, bike, run.
Friday, February 13, 2009
As a bit of an impulse buy this week, I picked up a Canon G10 while in London. I've only shot a few hundred frames with it so far, but I thought I'd share a few thoughts.
I mainly bought it because I was so frustrated with the small/ super-compact Panasonic DMC-LX1 that I was using. I like the form factor of the DMC-LX1 but I'm almost always disappointed by the images I get from it, even when shooting in the RAW mode. The pixels are just a bit too muddy, the colours a bit off and everything just annoying enough to not be satisfying. I'd heard good things from friends with the G9 and the exchange rate was such that the UK prices weren't too bad. I wanted something to take pictures with while in London so didn't want to wait until I got home.
Before buying, I spent a bit of time holding the G10. It feels good in the hand. I big, bright LCD screen at the back and a useless viewfinder. Plenty of physical control dials - ISO, exposure compensation all right there on the top. The camera is reasonably responsive too. Maybe takes a bit too long to Auto Focus but the shutter lag isn't terrible. Far from a Canon 1D in responsiveness, but still much better than the DMC-LX1 and most other compact cameras I've used. The menu system and controls all were very straight forward for me, but I've used and owned several Canon cameras so I'm used to their conventions.
Image quality so far has been excellent, when shooting in RAW mode. Adobe Lightroom 2.2 does a great job with the files and I've been happy with the results. ISO 80 through 200 are very useable but things start to fall apart quite quickly above those levels. The wide angle lens has some quite noticeable barrel distortion going on, but I'm happy they made it wider than the G9 - it suits what I use a compact camera like this for. It is for the times I don't want to carry my heavy SLR, typically when traveling in cities or hiking, so the wider the better as far as I'm concerned.
The other thing I'm excited about is the waterproof case that's available. For a reasonable price I'll have a 14+MP camera that I can shoot underwater with. The case lets all of the functions of the camera still be used and costs less than $200. About a twentieth of the price of a waterproof case for a 1DII. High speed sync with an off camera flash also seems to be a real possibility.
I haven't tried video, haven't done anything too fancy other than shoot in Av and M mode (there are a ridiculous amount of 'scene' modes that I doubt I'll ever even use). So far at least, I'm happy with the quality and performance. It isn't a DSLR replacement, but that's probably obvious from the price point and size. Seems to be a great walk about option.
While in London I was lucky enough to get to spend some time in the National Portrait Gallery. In fact, the weather was so wet and cold that we went back twice over a couple of days. The first time we visited the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2008 exhibit. A wide variety of portrait subjects are on display in this contest, with work from professional and amateur photographers. I was particularly interested in the Young Guns image, Platon's Puttin and the Thai Boxing portrait, along with noticing something I hadn't really appreciated in portrait photography before. Nobody smiles. In fact, most people are almost expressionless in the portraits that were selected for this collection. I can remember only one image that seemed to be expressing or displaying any real expression - Steve McQueen by Chris Floyd. The rest are almost blank, settled into a resigned non-expression. I suppose I've noticed this before when looking at some portraits, but it was strange to see this repeated, over and over in such a wide range of portraits from so many different photographers.
On the second visit we took in the rest of the portrait gallery, looking at a lot of portraits from British history, of important figures from royalty, politics, the arts and sciences. Looking for it this time, I noticed again, no expressions on the faces. Now as many of these paintings were created over many, many sittings, it isn't surprising to see an accurate representation of an expressionless face. I am left wondering if so much of that artistic style still influences modern day photographic portraiture, even though the fundamental reason for those blank expressions has changed. Talking to my friend Chris today, he mentioned that he thinks Dan Winters has a lot to answer for, in this style of modern photographic portraiture. I found a good interview with Dan in PDN.
I'm more interested in a photography that is 'unfinished' - a photography that is suggestive and can trigger a conversation or dialogue. There are pictures that are closed, finished, to which there is no way in.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
This shot continues a theme or merging of influences. I've found I really enjoy images shot totally out of focus. This is a technique that seems to sharply divide viewers. Some love it, some hate it, few are left ambivalent. There is a touch of impressionist painting in the back of my mind when I take these images, in fact trying to emulate that painting style is where I started shooting out of focus in the first place. Given Monet's many images of the houses of Parliament, this one seems particularly apt and was the reason I started shooting that way in London. This particular shot is also heavily influenced by a Keith Carter image, of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, shot through winter trees, with very selective focus. I've been down this path before, with the Zilker Christmas tree in Austin.
For a while I've been bothered about copying or appropriating ideas from other places, thinking I needed original ideas, or new and novel concepts of my own. Over time I've come to realise that borrowing or being influenced is the way the world works. I saw this earlier in the week, looking at a self-portrait of and by Rembrandt, in the National Portrait Gallery in London. Other paintings in the same room listed out wholesale lifting of compositions and poses from other older works. There is nothing new under the sun, after all. But if you take it and make it your own, you can't fail to find something new in the old ideas. Twyla Tharp talks about how any creative idea just needs two simpler ideas to be put together in an new way, to make a big idea. It doesn't have to be created out of thin air.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
She couldn't resist the old-fashioned bath. Particularly when the only shower option was the mixer tap at the end.
Second photo from my spangly new G10. Liking it so much more than the Panasonic LX1 - it actually takes decent quality pictures!
Monday, February 09, 2009
Wednesday, February 04, 2009
National Geographic editor, David Griffin, presents some of the power of photojournalism and how photography can be used to tell stories, in this TED presentation from last year. Some great images and intriguing background. Well worth the time to watch.