Sunday, September 9, 2012

RIP Brett Olson

A young man was lost to drowning in the Sacramento River this past week. His body turned up a week from when he went missing. Some 90,000 people in the meantime got together and tried to help find him, or became involved in one way or another. Not to mention the County Sheriffs and Chico Police dept. Anyway my point is not to be a news source here-- you should look elsewhere for that. I noted that in the interim many, many false sightings occurred and I'm sure many well-meaning people who thought they were helping feel kind of bad right now. One thing I noticed within the last couple of days was that Brett's missing iPhone was somehow found,  and that Brett's mother appeared to be very encouraged by this.

I'm just hoping that everybody who thought they saw him, or otherwise tried to contribute positively to the case can realize that anybody can make a mistake, and that they should forgive themselves. It was wishful thinking, and a lot of people wanted very badly for this young man to be found safe and returned to his family and friends alive and well.

Some people, myself included, were less hopeful about the outcome, but that doesn't make the ending any less tragic-- no matter what anybody did, thought, hoped for, this is one of those times when something just happened and you can't turn back time and change that.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Is Self Defense Spiritual?

So. . . this isn't the first time that the question came up, and to be honest it isn't usually a question, it usually arrives in the form of an accusation, or worse, an insult. The question, if it were put in a civilized way ( I'm big on civilness lately ) would be "Is self defense spiritual?" And the answer is: of course it is. Never heard of Martial Arts? Distinctly spiritual. Or how about the Shao Lin order: kick ass monks, they are. There are gentler forms of martial arts such as Aikido which turns an opponent's attacking energy back against them. Then there's Tai Chi which is even gentler, but it's still about moving and redirecting energy to where it is appropriate and beneficial. Redirecting energy is healing, and so I say, let the healing begin.

Pacifists can be spiritual too, of course. I don't question pacifists. I don't insult them. I don't even wonder whether or not pacifism is connected to their spirituality. It might be. It might not. What it really is, is, none of my business. I respect a pacifist for their choices just as much as I respect the next person for defending themselves, or others. If a pacifist changes his mind I still respect him. Same goes for a non-pacifist who says "no" one day to self defense, even if he changes his mind five minutes later. It's really all about personal choice and the right to live one's life as one chooses. Naturally if we do that we recognize the same rights for others. That's the ideal scenario, in any case.

Where does it become a gray area: how about when a pacifist gets all up in my face for having defended myself? Yeah, would a pacifist do that? Yep. I can witness on that, several times in the past. There will probably be more attacks by pacifists, or those who otherwise find themselves more "spiritual than thou" whenever I do or say virtually anything which does not agree with what they personally think is "spiritual". The good news is, I've only ever been attacked in such a way by people who don't know me at all: they just do a "drive by" and then keep on rolling.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

And then it got very quiet and peaceful, downright civilized.

So. . .  we're not famous enough to have to institute an email blacklist yet. Not that we ever set out to be famous, but we did discover a while back that getting enough business involves getting noticed enough statistically to secure sales. Any shyness we had needed to go away or at least be dealt with. One of our outreach tools was Youtube ( more on that in just a minute ).

The update on my angry little troll is that he made another squeeky angry sound at me so I reported him to his ISP and to his domain registry for "cyber-harassment" and I may have taken some further steps to try to make sure that anyone else he's harassing can figure out who he is, where he lives, and how to reach him by telephone should they need to file a police report. Yep, a police report. Harassing isn't legal, it pretty much falls under "stalker" laws. In this particular case we're talking about a guy who setup a domain name and email for the sole purpose of hurting people, and like I said in a previous post, he's been at it for years.

Update: However, even in trying to do good, sometimes mistakes get made. Not every bit of information can be verified, and sometimes despite all best intentions, things go wrong. I'll still try to do the right thing if I see or experience bullying, but the fact is, if somebody is determined to do wrong and then hide under a rock-- it may not always be that easy to find which slimy little rock they're hiding under.

Youtube just instituted a new policy: they're asking people to use their real names. They aren't requiring it yet, but I think they should. This quote pretty much says it all, "95 percent of comments still contain either a racial slur, a sexist tirade, is totally incomprehensible, or some combination of those,"--Leslie Horn of Gizmodo. Because basically, if you create and foster "troll heaven", you're responsible for the outcome, and the outcome in this case is disgusting and harmful.

Anybody seen the Saturday Night Live take on this?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Photographing Talia Lupita Azul in Chico at The Naked Lounge

Images from a recent photo shoot here in Chico, CA at a cafe called "The Naked Lounge". These were all shot in available light in the course of one hour. The model's name is Talia Lupita Azul. She's a joy to work with, really conveys a lot of subtle emotion and presence.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Presenting your art like you mean it

Presentation, presentation, presentation. In Real Estate they say the three principles are location, location, location. I'm pretty much saying the same thing. The idea being that it is where it is and you're stuck with that. Would you rather have the best house in the worst neighborhood, or the worst house in the best neighborhood? You want the worst house in the best neighborhood if you were forced to choose. You can't change the neighborhood ( not very easily, anyway) but you can always fix up the house. And the fact is that most of all what defines the value of real estate is less what it is and more where it is. Similarly I've found that if your art is in a high end gallery, you're going to do better with it than if it's hanging in a run-down coffeehouse. Same art, different location and inherently better presentation will help to equal either more sales or sales at a higher price.

Don't get me wrong, I like run down coffee houses. But then I'm not currently an art buyer. If the run down coffee house is what you have access to, at least try to make sure that you have your work nicely matted and framed and well lit. You may or may not sell anything, but you will have made a start and that's important too. I think the most important thing when considering where to hang your stuff is to get an idea who the clientele is. Maybe the run down coffee house is frequented by a clientele who can actually afford to buy your art--- like, if it's near a University, you never know, an administrator or a tenured professor with a few bucks stashed away might take a liking and buy a piece. In that case it's also pretty important to make sure that everything is decently labeled and priced. You may or may not decide to say much about each piece, but if you leave out the words aspect of presentation, make sure it's a very deliberate choice. In the very least say something about yourself even if you don't care to define each individual piece. This may just be my preference, but my artist statement will probably include a nice photo of myself, and I will at least look approachable, friendly. If your coffee house is frequented by doctors, lawyers and other professionals that's good too. The people who buy your art have to have the money to buy your art. There's no getting around that.

If your run down coffee-house is frequented only by college or high school students, don't expect to sell anything unless you're selling whatever is currently popular amongst that age group by way of a large poster for about 6 bucks. I don't in any way claim to know what's popular with people 30 years younger than me. I'm pretty sure a lot of 20 somethings are spending their life savings on tattoos. In fact I know of a few younger artists who are concentrating their efforts on tattoos because at least they can get paid that way.

When we spent a couple of months in Santa Fe, we asked every single gallery owner about the marketing of art. We thought they'd all have the same things to say about what worked. Well they didn't. There was a surprising amount of variation, but one of the common threads was all about presentation. All these galleries were in the known gallery districts of Santa Fe. The prime locations were the most accessible locations: like right on the plaza, or on the lower to the middle part of Canyon Road.  Santa Fe, New Mexico is within the top three art markets in the country. Even at that, there are galleries going bust. If you're in all alleyway off Canyon Road, that might be enough to drive you out. If you're the last gallery at the top of the road, that could be a problem too because the road is on a slight incline. It's walkable but the altitude of the town is over 7000 feet. A lot of art buyers are elderly. Many of them are from sea-level climates and are just visiting, they aren't acclimated and they never will be. They can't buy your art if they're about to pass out getting to it.
So. . .  rather than try to detail or compile what all the gallery owners imparted to us ( it would be impossible, there were too many contradictions ) I'm just giving an example or two to show the common sense of it all. Selling art is like selling anything. The presentation includes the location, the lighting, the overall atmosphere, the access to "qualified" buyers and so on.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Craigslist works great for some things, not for others.

When I lived in Santa Cruz I was using Craigslist to advertise our spiritual counseling and healing practice, my photography business as a photographer for hire, and separately to promote my art photography and Sheryl's art as well. I even used Craigslist to promote Sheryl's Mamalove Perfume business. It being the Bay Area, Craigslist had a wide reach. We also used some print ads to promote the spiritual healing work, but never to promote the art and photography. I'm not sure why that is, probably it was just a matter of having a budget. Plus, Sheryl and I primarily got together to do the spiritual healing and counseling even though the arts and literature ( and music too, and in my case, film ) were a big part of our lives.

Well things change. We moved around a bit. Eventually we settled in Chico, California. Craigslist itself has gone through a few changes too, and some of the stuff like the healing practice isn't so easy to promote there, but at least the "Therapeutic Services" section is no longer as inundated with sex ads. In any case, here in Chico I tried to utilize Craigslist to promote a host of things over the course of a year and nothing happened. Pretty much nothing. Possibly, absolutely nothing. It can be hard to track, but I am relatively sure that I got nearly zero response until I decided to sell an old bicycle for cheap, then some old bike parts, then a used microwave. Those ads drew overnight and enthusiastic responses. Bing, bang, boom; I actually made money. I had not made money on any other ad, diligently posted and re-posted over the course of a year. Hmm.

Craigslist is for locals, it's supposed to help locals at buying and selling goods and services-- all kinds of goods and services. In the Bay Area, we got some response, not overwhelming, but something. Here, we get nothing. And I don't just mean people aren't buying, I mean people are barely even looking. I have decent enough tracking to know that. Further the pattern is to see similar ads, like for photography services or even spiritual counseling-- to note that they crop up from time to time and then quickly disappear. That's what I saw. That means it's not working for them either. If the ads worked, they'd re-up them. We've moved around enough to discover that it's not the same Craigslist everywhere you go. Bizarrely, it's not the same Google either, but I may write about that another time. I think the first key is to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of a specific medium of communication, but the real lynch-pin, the anchor is to be willing to accept what you see, to act on that and to move onward, onward and upward.

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Chico Photographer on Photo Groups

 Oh, photographer's groups. . . and why I'm pretty reluctant to be a part of one. So, the first time I joined up was in Bellingham WA, about a thousand miles from where I am now in Chico, California. I don't speak of this much but photographers, as a group, have a rather high percentage of assholes. I'm not sure why this is. Male photographers in particular: they certainly aren't all assholes, but seems like a lot of them are, compared to the general populace. So the first photographers group I joined had a couple of "pro" photographers and a couple of hobbyists and one guy who used to be a pro commercial photographer but he had quit. At first I liked all these guys well enough, but pretty soon I got tired of the guy who was sort of randomly hostile for no particular reason. He founded the group and slowly he managed to drive everyone out of it. I couldn't for the life of me figure out why he started the group to begin with. His buddy seemed nice enough, but shortly I got a little tired of his holier-than-thou attitude, not just about photography but about pretty much everything. He's one of these guys who says "Anything I can do to help, just ask me, anytime." And then you do ask him something, some simple question, once, and you're ostracized forever. For the record I'm not one of those guys who says "anything, anytime" because I really, really would not mean it. I'm also one of those guys who usually gives detailed answers to anybody who asks me for a little help, I just don't promise that, because some time or other I won't mean it. Same guy lent me his book about his trip to India looking for his guru wherein he pretty much proceeded to play the right fool. Only he'd written the book in this pompous, elevated style and he hand bound the book and signed it and then proceeded to freak out like I wasn't going to return it to him. Of course I returned it. After a while i realized that the hostile guy was always saying the thing that the holy guy wanted to say but was too holy to do so. Yuch. There were two or three other guys in the group including me and we never managed to get anybody new to show up more than once ( surprise! ) and after a while the whole thing fell apart.

Fast forward and I inadvertently got added to a Chico Area Photographer's group through the magic of Facebook. It's OK probably, for a lot of folks-- there are some 70+ members whom I don't know whatsoever. But only two or three people are ever posting anything. Yes, I could post, sure I could. One of the latest postings was some guy ranting and raving about how much other photographers should share everything they know, and bring him along personally on photo shoots as an assistant so that he can "watch and learn" and how despicable it was that these other photographers weren't doing that. Um, yeah. Well, last time I checked there was a huge amount of teaching material available for free on the internet. Then there are these things called "books" and a whole huge population of people called "teachers" who quite frequently disseminate information, often at places called "schools". As often happens on Facebook, people went "Here here! Yes you are so right, why, every other photographer is personally responsible to educate you!" and nobody suggested to Mr Ranty Pants that he might actually be responsible for his own education. I don't know. In my case my dad taught me a hell of a lot, but later on the things I didn't pick up, or things I forgot, or things I never truly understood in the first place I looked up and studied and memorized. Failing that, a lot of things have been learned through experience, trial and error, or some combination of applying book knowledge to the ever changing conditions of real life. While I am sure that there's a place for peer based learning, and I have for sure published teaching pieces about photography ( and I might do it again ) I never signed up to teach everyone in my path about photography. A big part of this has to do with the fact that a lot of people who think they want to learn photography, don't. If I do sign up to teach, I'm going to expect to be paid. This brings me to my next point about photo groups.

Unless a photo group has a really clearly stated mission, it's likely to end up populated with a hodge- podge of people with a lot of different ideas, goals, and expectations. It can get messy. In this case we've got photographers: some are pro and some are amateur, and that's a big enough rift right there. There are also models, MUA's and I don't know what else. What I see right now are a couple of strong personalities ( one in particular ) milking the rest of the group for free labor on her own photo shoots. I just received a personal complaint that she doesn't treat people very well--- but here's another thing, if your group lacks a mission statement it might also lack any kind of codes of acceptable behavior. Under those conditions, sometimes, you get a wolf, or possibly two, but really one is enough, whose mission becomes eating all the sheep as rapidly as they can consume them. Contrary to how it may seem, I'm not real big on structure or discipline. I'm also not real big on groups unless they have, or can develop at least, a reason to exist. Mostly my experience with groups is that they accomplish what an individual can accomplish with an efficiency which is inversely proportional to the number of members of the group. Back to my earlier point though: one of the bigger problems with photo groups is that pros and amateurs have distinctly different interests. The primary imbalance is that pros expect to be paid, and when they are shooting quite often they're being paid to shoot, and to edit, and indirectly to do outreach and marketing. If they aren't busy, then they aren't doing terribly well as pros. You might have trouble putting together an all pro group in a given area because too many are in direct competition with each other. If there's an all pro group there will be an agenda, or agendas amongst it's membership. An all amateur group might work better, but you run the strong risk of the blind leading the blind, of bad info being spread from member to member--- whatever, I mean if it's all about point and shoots and potlucks then it's all hunky dory. I've just never been interested in that. In an all pro group I myself am concerned about the agenda's. In the particular group I'm in, about 90% of the membership don't appear to be participating at all, less than ten percent are posting anything and one aggressive "pro" is just using the membership to exploit free labor from naive amateurs ( gobbling up the sheep ).

Come to think of it that potluck group sounds pretty good. If we can all agree to leave the cameras at home that could work out just great. We all arrive hungry and carrying food, we all leave full and happy, and in between we all had a great time.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A photographer in Chico; product photography, or photography as product.

This would be an example of product photography. I shot this here in Chico, but I've been shooting bottles of Mama Love perfume in Santa Cruz, Arizona, and probably anywhere else we've found ourselves. I think I discovered my liking for product photography about seven years ago. It's simple and clean and generally doesn't take long. It's quiet and kind of meditative. I rarely think to advertise myself as a product photographer because perhaps, it's too easy. I mean, maybe it's a little harder than it looks. And if you want to finesse it somewhat it can get a lot harder, but maybe when you like it as much as I do it just doesn't feel like work. And yet, you still have to be a competent photographer at least to pull it off at all and it is a sub-specialty genre wherein some photographers shoot nothing but product shots and make a whole living at it.

 I've seen a lot of other photographers in and around Chico but not anyone so far specializing in product photography but that does not mean they aren't here. So. . .  I was pretty surprised to see another photographer based in Ashland, Oregon advertising right next to me. He's been doing exactly the same routine for months now. I have pretty good website tracking, so I know that this guy first looks at my ad ( which usually says something like "portraiture" or "The Art of the Portrait" ) then he goes to my website and looks around a little, and then he posts his ad right above mine: "Product Photography." If you visit his website he claims to shoot anything and everything, not just product shots. I don't see how being a couple hundred miles away is any advantage for him. Is the economy really that bad? I don't think so. If anything, it seems to be looking up. There's little manufacturing in Chico, but maybe things are worse in Ashland? Hope not. I like Ashland a lot and seriously considered moving there. Maybe I should advertise up there. It would be like a cultural exchange. What the hell, maybe a merchant will invite me up for the weekend, I'll bring some big pieces of white paper and my strobes and I'm in there. It's way cooler up there and we've been hitting triple digits. Of course, there might already be photographers up in Ashland, even specialist product photographers, they might live there and wish to make a living where they live.

 I think everybody looks around to see what other people are doing in their field but this one is a bit off. I expect to see the other locals advertising around, and no doubt we all look at each others ads. My issues with some of those ads are usually one of two: charging so little for the service that it makes no sense and undercuts/sabotages the whole industry of pro photography, or, charging too much and having no idea how to execute your craft. In other words, some local photographers are so bad they don't even know just how bad they are, and yet they expect get paid for it. I'm a little embarrassed for the latter, but really the former is a bigger problem: once one schmo charges less than the gas money associated with a photo shoot, another ( desperate ) schmo might try to compete with that. Worse yet, a potential client looking around to get an idea what it costs for a pro photo shoot, including editing, goes "Oh hey, ten bucks!"  Ten bucks? I don't think so. Better to say you're an amateur or a student and you just want to get some experience--- charge them for gas money, a nominal fee for prints or a CD and that's all well and good but please, leave out the "I'm a professional" part. Any professional has some overhead, some skill, some education and experience, and hopefully some self-respect. Unless. . .

The whole industry is going down the tubes? This has been speculated on and written about elsewhere to be sure. By the way, my "ten bucks" "pro" is not a facetious example. This is a guy who claimed a week ago to be into photography "just for the art of it" and he got quite insulting about the motives of other photographers, including, specifically, me. Nice. Can't imagine what he'll do next. he's a loose cannon, or should I say "a loose Canon"?

Honestly, there is no substitute for a skilled, educated and experienced photographer. And while it's not about the equipment, the equipment is getting cheaper and more affordable year after year. This means that more and more people are buying it. This is digital, so there's no outlay for film once the camera, flash memory, computer and software have been purchased, and let's face it, most people who'd buy a digital camera already own a computer and can pick up some basic editing software cheap or free. It's then quite possible to use a pro or semi-pro camera as a point and shoot. I know a "pro photographer" who did this. I'll call her "Jane".

Jane bought an entry level DSLR and immediately hung out a shingle as a pro. She had pretty close to zero experience, training, skill, or even talent. She got a website and greatly exaggerated her background with some cleverly worded copy. She also proceeded to undercut local photographers on price to a stunning degree, deliberately insulting her competition in print for charging too much. Over the years she'd raise her prices gradually until they matched the very price she'd insulted others for--- even though to my perception her skills didn't really improve. On her shoots she'd set the camera on full auto and snap away. Wedding shoots, I kid you not. The funny thing is, she got away with it, for years. Her "secret" I guess, was a lot of post processing. Namely, pushing brightness and saturation to an almost unbelievable degree. Only now is she considering scaling back the operation away from weddings and more towards family/child portraits. She was purportedly working 60 hour work weeks post-processing, and only making about 15 grand a year: making her hourly wage sub-minimum wage. I don't know all the reasons behind it, but the main one I heard was that post-processing the thousands of images associated with a full wedding shoot was pretty much killing her in time consumption. I half expect to see her quit altogether. From time to time I saw her touting the difference between a pro photographer and an amateur as the ability to push a couple of sliders in software, long after all the photos have been shot. Therefore, to my knowledge, she never let a client see an unprocessed image. How could she? Her unprocessed product was of poor quality. The whole arc of her career was indicative of an unregulated industry spiraling out of control. And I say "was" because I fully expect her to quit, having learned little or nothing, driven other, better photographers out of business by low-balling and finally throwing in the towel when her own, sorry but I have to say it, stupidity, drives her out of business.

Now, she's not actually the worst photographer that I know, but the very best photographers I know have spent years of sweat, study and experience learning to put the best image in camera as they possibly can. They do use post processing, but post is the icing, not the cake. And, there's been a long standing saying in several technical industries that I've been involved in: "Crap in, crap out." If that's not obvious enough, it has to do with quality control from start to finish. That's one part of this particular industry which may be in some degree of peril, and it bothers me. I may write more about this later, but I think anyone can see that for one thing, a flood of poorly skilled practitioners representing themselves as professionals competing with each other ( and with "real" professionals too ) partly by low-balling the price structure can bring down the whole profession.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Come on, "Vogue".

Can't help but think I should crop this square. Allie hit a couple of knockout poses her first time out and this was one of them. Most all of the retouching was on the log to get rid of graffiti. I know, graffiti, on a log. A log.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Ethics of Retouching

Basically, these are images from a recent shoot. I'll have more to say about that later.

OK, it's later.

These are images wherein some retouching was used. The problem which came up was the type of retouching. There's some software around now which is pretty sophisticated, and aside from just touching up skin blemishes you can pretty easily balance skin tones, give somebody tan skin or apply lipstick without a lot of meticulous hand work in Photoshop. A lot of people want their photos touched up in this way. But the technique in question on the images above is one of facial sculpting. If you do it a little, a lot of folks will rather like it and not realize that it's been done. If you do it a lot, then the person in the photo doesn't really look like themselves anymore. A lot has been said about retouching in the media in a very critical way. I'm not here to argue one way or the other about that. All in all I do not want young women or men for that matter comparing themselves to crazily photoshopped images thinking that those images are reality and that they need to lose weight, or grow longer legs or a longer neck or wider eyes, or bleach their teeth or any of that stuff. But the fact of the matter is photographs have never been reality, the best photographers have always been great at bending reality to suit the needs of the image and we're just better at it now, and also much worse, by means of technology. You can now create beautiful images, or hideous images and everything in between with alarming dexterity.

One thing which happens from time to time is that I get asked some variation on the question "are those the real colors?"  or "did the sky really look like that?" etc. And the answer is, "how should I know?" Nobody can compare a moment in time with a photograph. The moment has passed. Cameras, lenses and all associated gear distort. Computer monitors for the vast majority of people have never been calibrated, therefore the colors, contrast, brightness are typically preset at a fairly inaccurate factory default. From there, translating an RGB image to a CMYK for print is a pretty sketchy process-- far from exact. The other answer, the one I really want to give to the question which is pretty much asking if I represented reality correctly is: "I don't know and I don't care, because that is not what I'm going for." I notice nobody asks a painter if his colors are accurate. You either like a painting or you don't. I guess the whole problem began with the idea of "photo realism". Well it's not real. It never is and it never was and it never will be.

However, getting back to the images above. They have been retouched, really I should say "manipulated" so that the image of the person photographed no longer looks enough like that person to be truly recognizable. In essence the image is now a different person, a person who doesn't exist. Just so we don't get confused, an image is never a person, an image is always an image and only a person is a person. So, is there a problem? Yes, there's a big problem if you're doing a portrait for a person. They want to look like themselves, only better. The "only better" part is only slightly hypocritical. Of course people want to look their best in a photograph, even if they never really look that good anywhere else. Sorry, but it's true. However I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that a lot of people who look great in real life don't photograph very well. "Photogenic" just means you tend to photograph well and rather easily from a variety of angles and with a variety of facial expressions. A photograph is a distortion of real life, always.

 If, for example, somebody shot a photo of me and then presented me with an image which looked like Brad Pitt, well there's a problem because I don't much resemble Brad Pitt. I'm pretty OK with looking like myself, and I wouldn't want others looking at a photo ostensibly of me and saying, "Who is that guy? He looks a bit like Brad Pitt?"  So the weird part about being a good photographer and retoucher is, if you use the techniques skillfully, and "enough" you'll get lots of compliments and maybe even some money too. If you're really skillful you might even push the envelope a little, thus getting more compliments and money. But if you go too far, now you're not only bad at what you do, but are somehow a sinner; a person who has done wrong. You've insulted your subject. Maybe you've insulted some sacred concept of what humanity is, especially if you tend to manipulate or erase family genetic characteristics or even "racial" characteristics.

I'll admit I'm in some conflict over this. The painter/artist side of me prefers to be free to use brush and paints as I wish. There's an old photojournalist side of me wants the entire art to be capturing a moment in time perfectly. The counselor side of me cares more about the truth of an "honest" image, and of course I care most about people.

But as a portrait photographer  I look for good light and if I don't find it I create it. I try for the best camera angles which will distort in a complimentary way. I select lenses specifically to flatter my subject. I turn off any in-camera "sharpening" and let the bayer filter fuzz things up pretty good. In essence I put the rose colored filter (figuratively) on before we even start. People pay me for that, people hug me for that and get all teary eyed over it. So far nobody has said, "Oh come now, I don't look that good. Go back and ugly it up."

I mean, it could happen, anything could happen. But really I think that if I create an image it should simply be judged on it's own merits like any image. Any resemblance to reality is superficial anyway. If I go too far, I haven't ncessarily ruined an image, but shifted its usefulness from one realm to another. You know, Bugs Bunny doesn't look much like a real rabbit, but he still has his place in cartoons, because after all real rabbits don't talk, wisecrack or outsmart Elmer Fudd, but there's a place for Bugs, and we accept that.; not as a real representation of a rabbit, far from it, he's a created illusion with distinctly unique characteristics, much like a photograph. Still, you'd be right if you said that Bugs was a bit cartoonish . . .

And the fact of the matter, the reality of where we are today with digital photography, is that images approaching the ordinary likely won't get any attention at all. They won't stand out. And if a potential client gets the idea that they, or cousin Jimmy, could take photos just as well as you do, you won't get hired. This sets up an unfortunate scenario of escalation. The slippery slope being that manipulation of images becomes the "norm" to an extraordinary degree, and that any image not employing wild techniques is considered inferior or sub-standard.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy Saint Patrick's Day! 2012

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!  May the luck of the Irish be with you! Have fun, be safe. Model Credit, Allie

Thursday, March 15, 2012

With change comes controversy

Aaah yes, so here it is, the source of great controversy. The image above, believe it or not.

A young, aspiring model contacted me and asked me to help with her portfolio. Turns out she's enthusiastic as all get out, raring to go and loves to try new things. I've had a few model contacts so far and nothing has panned out, so my portfolio is limited to some photojournalistic work, a couple weddings, some portraiture and a whole lot of art, nature and wildlife photography primarily.

So I met Allie at a cafe and brought my camera, took a few impromptu headshots and we had a little conversation and a day later we did a very rudimentary shoot in the park. The light was terrible, it was windy and a little chilly and sunny at the same time. No foliage to provide deep shade, no assistant, but Allie was such a trooper she just carried the day, never complained once even though unbeknownst to me she wasn't feeling well. I was pretty impressed with her ability to "vogue it up" working with the environment, the bad light, and any props handy including and old dead log with grafitti on it ( most of which I have now removed in post production ).

So anyway the shot above ended up being one of two of her favorite shots of the day. She called it, "perfect". As a photographer I can't ask for more than that. Allie had told me that her tastes run towards the edgy and dramatic, so it didn't surprise me that she'd pick two images where she wasn't smiling. She smiles a lot, like, all the time, but she knows when the camera is turned on her she needs to mix it up a bit.

I posted the photo on my facebook page, with the comment that the subject doesn't always choose the same favorite images as the photographer in every case, and I was actually referring to another shot which I never did post because I like this one all right. I don't think it's "perfect" but I like it all right.

Then the shit hit the fan. Somebody didn't just dislike the photo, they seemed to in some way, hate it. I was so surprised that i asked them to clarify, and that was my first mistake. I don't really want to go into it all, because it was really just a few people making negative comments, but then it expanded into what appeared to be a feminist based rant or two, and I could see it was going to snowball. Even really well meaning people were now speculating about the model based on a single image.

 I've seen this happen before on the internet, they call it a "dogpile" and it can go positive or it can go negative. What I think this was turning into was a lot of really good people trying to work out their "stuff" on a single image. As an image then, it's a success. You might want an image to get noticed, get under your skin even, disturb you somehow. Not every image should be entirely palatable.

But the comments were starting to piss me off because I know that an image is just an image and yet there are real people behind it, like, in this case, a young college student just trying her hand at modeling. I know what a trooper she was for this shot, that she brought her own clothes, changed them in the chilly wind, did her best to work with what she had and did a truly admirable job, far exceeding my expectations for the day. I don't want to hear that you don't like her shoes. If you're so concerned about that, I'll send you and invoice for two hundred fifty bucks and you can handle the shoe fund. Don't tell me that you think she's "in pain" just because she decided to shoot an intense look at the camera for this one image. Literally 3 seconds later she was grinning, just like she was for most of the day. I don't even want to hear about the pose being unnatural because to me all poses are unnatural, and I especially don't want to hear how concerned you are for her well being while directly engaging in gossip gossip gossip. Not so bad at modeling the first time out is she? Modeling is acting, and she fooled the hell out of some people. Further she zoned in on the one image out of about 200 that was going to mess with people big time. Mess with them. And honestly, this is a young woman kicking back on a log, fully clothed. My hat is off to Allie. She rocked the house.