Saturday, December 1, 2018

A Drop in the Well of Inspiration

"A photographer seeks intimacy with the world and then endeavors to share it."

From Jerry Lopez's essay Learning to See.*  One of those "required readings" I believe every serious photographer should have in their well of inspiration.  In his essay Lopez shares why he gave up photography.  Interesting insights as to why some of us stay with it.

Take care,

*You can find his essay in both of his books Vintage Lopez and About This Life: Journeys on the Threshold of Memory.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Quote of the Month - Burkett

"That's what photography is all about, writing with light."
Christopher Burkett, Newshour Interview, 15 April 2018

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Quote of the Month - Szarkowski

"It is true that the hardest part of photography is finding the right place to stand, but the difference between the wrong place and the right place is likely to be measured in inches rather than miles."
John Szarkowski, from his introduction to Ansel Adams and the Sierra Nevada.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

New In My Darkroom

Last month was one of the months when "you gotta do what you gotta do."  I am speaking of darkroom maintenance.  Mostly cleaning but some fixing too.  About once a year one must pause and do the grunt work.

This time was a little different.  My motivation was installing a new enlarger in the darkroom.  I recently purchased a Saunders LPL 4500ii on Ebay and it is in excellent condition!  Of course there is always the aligning and rearranging the darkroom to accommodate a much bigger enlarger.  And of course, like any tool in the intimate environment of the darkroom, I will need time with it to master its strengths and weaknesses.

For the past 25+ years I have been using a Besseler 23C III and it has served me extremely well.  Its one shortcoming is that it is designed to enlarge medium format negatives - which it did admirably and I have made many fine prints on it.

But here's the rub...  I have been shooting mostly 4x5 and 8x10 for many years.   My preferred printing technique is contact printing and good ol' reliable 23C did a fine job in that arena as well.  However I also realize that an entire show of 4x5 contact prints could be a bit tedious and some enlarged 4x5 negatives are called for.  Hence acquiring the LPL 4500.

Oh I still have my Besseler.  If I had more room in the darkroom I would have set up both enlargers.  Maybe someday.

I expect the LPL will do a fine job on my contact prints (and will likely make the 8x10 negatives a little easier to manage).  But it is time to do a some enlarging and 4x5 negatives await.

Take Care,

(PS: As I side note, I think the current obsession with make the biggest print possible is silly, but that is another discussion.)

Tuesday, July 17, 2018


"Lonely Grave"
from The Lonely Places project

This picture is titled "Lonely Grave" from The Lonely Places project.  It is high in the mountains near Virginia City, Nevada, in a large and badly abused cemetery south of town.

When I first visited this place years ago, I had a vision of how I wanted to interpret this particular grave site.  However, I had to return many times over several years before I found the right combination of light, clouds, mountains, and wind to make the image work.  

Making an image that says just want you want can take a lot of patience and discipline.  But when when you keep at it (and when Nature cooperates) ... well, let's just say it is very satisfying!

Take Care,

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Quote of the Month - Chitwood

"What you notice becomes your life."
Michael Chitwood from his book The Weave Room

Friday, May 25, 2018


I have been considering failure as of late.  Not in a negative sense (which is how most people immediately react to the word), but in a positive context.

Failure is an important part of the creative process.  Or, as Bram Stoker correctly observed: we learn from failure, not from success.

Do not be afraid of examining your failures.  It might be a composition that didn't work quite right.  Or maybe it was the "photographer's dance" of exposure, shutter speed, aperture, filtering, sensitivity, developer, film, or one of a myriad of other elements that fell short of the harmony you thought the image was crafted with.  Film, darkroom printing, large format cameras - they are not typically forgiving tools to work with.  But stopping and examining my unsatisfactory images, looking at my notes, and thinking back to when I made the image is how I continue learn and grow toward further mastering the craft.

Draft prints that still come up short.
The problem (a balance between the tree bark and leaves)
is very subtle.
Permission to fail is also a vital component when you are learning a new technique or trying something different.  Expecting perfection at the beginning is foolishness.  Embrace those mistakes and learn from them.  I recently started working with Amidol, a paper developer of old that can produce incredibly subtle images tones but is notoriously difficult to work with.  It has lived up to its reputation!  Even with 30 years experience in the darkroom my first attempts are disasters.  But I am learning a lot.  Stay tuned.

Classical photography demands learning from your mistakes because each image is such an investment of time and energy.

Digital photography can also provide such learnings, but it is incumbent on the photographer to make the extra effort to do so.  Making pictures with a digital camera requires so little effort and it is easy to make a flood of mages.  It is just too tempting to rush through a palithra of pictures, jump over the ones you do not like, and focus only on the ones that you think look good.  But what have you learned?  Damn little I might venture to guess.  Do not get caught in this trap!  I have seen it ruin many a fine photographer.

Take your time.  Learn from your mistakes.  They are gifts that will make you a better photographer!

Take Care,

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Using the Tool

Autumn shoot in the Eastern Sierra

Al Weber (a well known photographer, teacher, and important mentor for me) once wrote:

 "Never allow some tool to get between you and your work."

One reason I generally shun clubs and gatherings of photographers is that the conversation is rarely about photography - it's about their cameras.  Endless babble about specifications, and features, and one up-manship about how wonderful their toys are.


The camera is a tool.  As such it has strengths and weakness that influence how you approach your work.  But in the end, the important thing is your work.  What you create and why you create it - that is what interests me.  Let's talk about that!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Quote of the Month - Christopher Burkett

"The whole point of doing it (photography) is not to just present a pretty picture but to present something that shows people something that maybe that haven't seen or experienced and something really worthwhile."
Christopher Burkett, PBS Newshour Interview, 15 April 2018

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

True Colors

Classical black and white photography is my passion.  Not only do I strive to practice it as an art, but I am an avid collector as well.  To be in my collection the print must be made on film and hand printed by the artist in their darkroom.  Not only does this yield  the unique quality of the traditional print, but also a special connection to the artist.

There is, however, one color photographer in my collection.  He works in film and prints on the last of the Cibachrome in his darkroom.  His name is Christopher Burkett.  I would go so far as to say that you really haven't seen a brilliant color photograph until you've seen Cibachrome print.  And you have not seen the ultimate manifestation of color until you've seen a print by Christopher.

Recently, the PBS Newshour Weekend Edition did a fine interview with Christopher.  Here is a link:

Not only does the article highlight Christopher's achievements, it also offers the viewer insights into the painstaking process the artist must master to produce fine prints in the darkroom; the iterative process to achieve the expression the artist is striving for, the precision of the dodging and burning, and the craftsmanship necessary to achieve a masterful work of art.

There are those who say traditional photography is a dying art.  This is complete rubbish, especially for black and white!  But they do not make Cibachrome anymore and this unique form of photographic expression will no longer be accessible to photographic artists.  I find myself grateful that the last of this wonderful paper is in the hands of a truly great artist.

This is a splendid interview with Christopher.  He shares his perspective on the art of photography and the traditional expressions of the fine art print.  I agree with him entirely - could not have said it better myself.

I hope you enjoy the interview!  Better still, if you have an opportunity to see first hand Christopher's work I whole heartedly encourage you to seize the moment.  You will be amazed!

Here is a link to Christopher Burkett's website where you can see much of his work:

Take Care,