Tuesday, January 1, 2019

from the Opus Rose series
I like to say...

"Success nurtures your ego.  
Failure nurtures your growth."

We need both, but failure (and growth) usually comes first - and that's good because it means you are trying!

Here's to a year of BOTH!


Take Care,

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Congratulations - Now Go Take Pictures!

Congratulations on your new camera!

(Go take pictures! So that when you travel to Death Valley
this winter you are comfortable with your new camera.)
I know there are many of you who received a new digital camera for Christmas.  Maybe it replaced your previous model, maybe it is your first DSLR (digital single lens reflex).

Whatever the circumstances, if this is new to you then you might be feeling a little intimidated. All those buttons, and menus, and features, and strange abbreviations - it can all be rather daunting.

I am often asked for advise on how to take better pictures.  My best first advise to beginners is always this:

Go Take Pictures!

I cannot tell you how many times I've been introduced to someone with a new camera and all they can do is brag about the features - but they have not taken any pictures!

               Go Take Pictures!

The camera is a tool and you have to get comfortable using it. And the only way to do that is...

                               Go Take Pictures!

There is time enough to learn more about the craft of photography.  I want to share hints, tips, and  ideas with you here (I am even putting together a workshop just for beginners).  But until then...

                                             Go Take Pictures!

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Let There Be Light


Photography is about light.  Light is the photographer’s lifeblood and without it we are nothing!  It is the fundamental building block for the images we create. 

It is easy to get distracted and think photography starts with the camera, but that is not true.  Photography always starts with the light.  

In Northern California where I live, Winter light has a special quality unlike anywhere else.  A soft, glowing quality that lends itself to crafting photographs on subjects that at any other time of the year would be too harshly illuminated.  I’ll bet where you live the qualities of the light change throughout the seasons, lending itself to particular subjects at different times of the year.

Take Care,

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,