Friday, February 14, 2020


Paul Caponigro's "Running White Deer"
Available at Photography West, Carmel, CA

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending a lecture by famed photographer Paul Caponigro.  I am pleased to report that at 87 he is full of energy and spirit!

Paul is of that generation of “no nonsense,” tell-it-like-it-is, if you don't like it that's your problem, master photographers.  They have a solid perspective and heart-felt passion for their art, without being sappy or sentimental.

One important quality all these masters share is a connection to their subjects.  They want to express more than a mere pictorial representation.  They are telling us more about the world than meets the eye.

Paul is an accomplished pianist as well as photographer.  One point that he made in his lecture that rings true (though I never thought of it this way) is how music, through hearing, has a more direct emotional connection.  This is in contrast to our visual perception that must climb through a mountain of intellectual clutter before it can resonate emotionally.  Visually, our heads get in the way with preconceived notions, biases, opinions, and petty obsessions that seem to occupy a good part of our lives.  As visual artists, we must find a way through this clutter.

Think about that. 

(BTW, If you have an opportunity to attend a lecture by one of the masters, DO IT!  You will get insights and ideas that no book, blog, or YouTube video could ever provide.)

Tuesday, February 11, 2020


"Lonely and Windswept"
from The Lonely Places project

In an earlier post I mentioned the The Shutter Brothers' 3-P's.  Planning. Purpose. Patience.  

This picture is titled "Lonely and Windswept" 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.  It has all three ingredients of the 3-P's but especially patience.

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.  Finding the right place to stand and the composing the image.  Waiting for the light.  Waiting for the clouds. Waiting for the wind to stop.  And sometimes it all goes away and you don't get the image at all and you have to plan to go back. 

But when you keep at it (and when Nature cooperates) ... well, let's just say it is very satisfying!

Sunday, February 2, 2020

The Plan

The Shutter Brothers in Bodie, CA
I recently had breakfast with my Shutter Brothers, Tom & Russ. We were discussing how our varied approaches to photography are alike and how they are different. 

Russ does digital photography but began in using film, Tom has been entirely digital, and I am all classical large format film.  All three of us take our work seriously.  Photography is for us more than just snapshots taken as aids to memory.  

Despite our three very different styles, we all share a secret ingredient to our work.  We call it The 3-P’s.  Preparation.  Purpose.  Patience.

Let’s talk about Preparation.

It is common for Russ, Tom, and myself to travel to remote locations in the mountains, desert, forests, plains, and small towns to do our work.  Often these trips are planned weeks or months ahead of time.  We study the terrain, local features, history, special events, where the sun is rising and setting, understanding the distances involved, available accommodations … you get the picture.  The point is we are not going out there willy-nilly, there is a plan at work.

Now don’t get me wrong, that’s not to say we are on a rigid itinerary. We often get inspiration while on the road and will detour down a side road or discover an interesting feature from the locals once we are on location.  But all three of us find we can do our best work if we have a plan.  You see, a plan allows us to focus on the photography rather than desperately trying to find a place to spend the night.  A plan allows us to make the best use of available light.  And a plan reduces the chances of returning from a trip only to find out we missed out on some great feature or event. 

How about you?  Got a plan?