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