Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tuesday Links

I've been collecting links for a bit, time to share.

A Do It Yourself L Plate, good for ball heads on tripods. It allows you to change from landscape to portrait mode easily while still maintaining the flexibility of the ball head.

One of the photographers I follow collects Words Not to Lose.

2009 Calendar Templates. Use them with Photoshop to create your own calendars.

A Fox interview of what it's like to spend 8 years being a Presidential Photographer.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Windy Weekend

It's been strange weather wise the last week. From a snowfall of what seemed like 10 inches a day the weekend before Christmas to rain and 50 degrees. With freezing rain and messy roads in between. Pretty much all the snow is melted now, but it being only December, there will be more.

I woke up Sunday morning to high winds battering the house and the sound of a big bang. Taking a quick walk around the house didn't reveal anything wrong. Figuring it was a piece of debris hitting the house, I pretty much forgot about it.

I had been wanting to go out to Grand Haven to get photographs of waves hitting the lighthouse. Checking the webcams for the area showed that indeed they did have waves and they were big. Of course, once I hit the road the snow started and the roads got slippery in the Grand Rapids area. For some reason, they were dry closer to the lake shore.

I'm not sure what the winds at the lake shore were, they were reported to be gusting to mid 40 mph in GR. They were definitely higher at the lake. While I thought I had dressed warm, it quickly became apparent that a stocking type hat in high winds doesn't really cut it. I made a note to myself, once again, to look for warmer hats.

The other problem I had and one I had not thought of, was controlling the camera in high winds. The wind was high enough, that I had trouble keeping it focused on a single target. I ended up searching out pieces of fence or posts to help steady the camera. Even that was not an optimum answer. I'm not sure what else I could do. A tripod would blow over, unless it was weighted down with more weight than I wanted to carry.

I ended up cranking up the iso so I could get a fast shutter speed in the light, and quickly filled up 3 memory cards in 3 different locations. I don't think I spent more than 15 minutes or so in any one spot, but I was glad to get back to the warm car. I did get some photos I liked though.

Once I got back home, I finally figured out what the bang was that woke me up. We lost a big piece of trim on the garage. I still haven't been able to find it.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Earthrise - 40 years later

December 24th marked another anniversary other than what most people were focused on. It was the 40th year after the flight of Apollo 8. For those that are too young to remember, Apollo 8 was the first manned spaceflight that left the Earths gravity and traveled to the moon. While they didn't land, they were the first humans to see the Earth rising above the moon.

The photo had a huge impact on society at the time. Showing the Earth as a small blue globe rising above the Lunar plains, it galvanized the environmental movement. It became a popular poster and you still see it used from time to time. Unfortunately its impact has lessened over time.

I have this vain hope that people will look at this photo every once in a while and realize how small and fragile this world we live on is. That all our eggs are in the one basket and once it's used up, it's gone. I realize that in this time of instant communications, a plunging economy and the hectic pace of everything, that it's probably not going to happen. But I can hope.

Being a young space geek at the time this was first shown, it had a huge impact on me and helped shape my view of the world. It demonstrated for me early on the power of an image. Even now, 40 years later, it still has a huge effect on me.

Photo GPN-2001-000009.jpg was downloaded from NASA. Usually presented in landscape mode, it actually was taken in portrait mode as presented above. There is no copyright on the photo that I could find.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Lightroom 2 - Cropping

Even though I've used Adobes Lightroom since it's been out, I don't really use all its features. That's gotten worse since version 2 was released. If I want to do much more than the basics, I use Photoshop. To try to learn the product, I'm going to research one feature and write about it. This will probably not be on a set schedule, but I plan to finish before spring arrives.

The first one is going to be quick and easy. Adding new standard cropping ratios to the crop menu. Some photos are better as panoramic, but I've just been cropping them by eye. Since that is one photo type I want to explore more, I wanted some standard crop ratios for consistency. It turns out to be easy, drop down the crop menu and select the "Enter Custom..." option. Type in your new ratios and hit enter. They will be available immediately and survive closing the program. As you can see from the photo, I've added 16x9, 1x2 and 1x3. Since then I've also added 1x4, but that is going to be the format for web page banners.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Even though it's still officially fall, it feels like winter. We got dumped on yesterday, and we are still digging out. Even better, we are getting more snow later today. I know it's only December, but I'm sick of it already.

Even worse, except for some special cases, I haven't got my camera out much. Between the snow and the shortened days, it's been hard. Hopefully soon, when the days start getting longer, things will change.

The photo is of my neighbor digging out his driveway yesterday at noon. I had tried to get out of the house to meet some friends for lunch, but got stuck. I ended up digging myself out also instead.

For those that care, the winter equinox is tomorrow, December 21st at 12:04 UTC. The chart I looked this up in didn't say if it was a.m. or p.m., so I really can't say if it is 8:04 local time in the morning or in the evening. Oh well, I guess it really doesn't matter.

I hope you've had less snow then we have and if not, that you've digged yourself out.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Time Wasting Tuesday

I always liked Beaker of the Muppets. How much better can it get when you pair him with Beethoven?

I guess you need some humor during the economic crisis....

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Wandering Gary

The closest I've been to Gary, Indiana is driving by it on the tollway on the way to Chicago. My impressions have never been too high, a dirty industrial city, with some interesting looking architecture. When the Midwest Large Format Asylum decided to have a group outing there to do a little urban exploring, I tagged along.

I have to say, the city itself is more depressing than I originally thought, especially on a grey December day. At first glance, it seems most of the city is either boarded up or abandoned with a few dashes of light between. For a photographer who shoots urban decay, Gary would be a place you could work for years and not get through all the blight. It's too bad, because underneath the grime, you could see the pride that used to be present. Gary is probably a poster child for a one product economy. The steel mills take up the whole north side of the city and when they started having issues, so did the city.

Myriad examples of urban exploring in Gary are online, with whole web pages devoted to the city. A simple search on Flickr turns up more examples. We ended up going to a church in downtown, an old train station and the Palace Theater. We spent the most time at the church. A fascinating building, it's hard to imagine anyone just walking away from it. The old train station is another example. I know Gary has a commuter train that runs into Chicago, but the platform for that is at another spot. The old building is just the shell, with a few barricades in front. I'm sure they had a good reason for not using it, but I can't fathom why. We ended the outing at the Palace Theater. We got some photos of the outside, but we didn't go in the building. Not that we couldn't, we found two openings into it from an alley in back.

All in all, a good day out with the camera.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

TDTESS - It's Here!!!!

The movie I've both dreaded and waited for opens up Friday. The remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still starring Keenau Reeves. I'm really been afraid the movie will suck, but an interview with the director of the movie Scott Derrickson is promising. You can read it on the blog Science Not Fiction.

A post later on in the same week pointed to this video of a Star Wars remix as a silent film. While you're wasting time on the web, it's recommended.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Dorthea Lange

I've become a big fan of Dorthea Lange lately. My first exposure to her was her iconic image of the Migrant Mother during the great depression. Lately I've been reading a book about her work with the Japanese-Americans interned during WWII. Produced by the FSA and working under restrictions, such as she couldn't show barbed wire or armed guards, she managed to depict the injustice inflicted on these people in the name of security. Since it showed the internees in a favorable light, the photos were not published during the war and many have not been published yet.

I see another book about her has been released. Titled Daring to Look, it focuses on her work in 1939. Another book for the Christmas list. In fact, browsing Amazon has plenty of books available about her and her work.

There is also been an interview published with one of the children in the photo above. Reading it is an education of the differences in the attitudes of the people 65 years ago and today.

The above image was downloaded from the Library of Congress. A quick search did not turn up any rights reserved. This was taken under the auspices of the FSA and I believe that it is in the public domain.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Messy Portraits

I attended a portrait workshop this past Wednesday put on by the Grand Rapids Camera Club. I had my friends bring their daughter to it, so I could get some more formal photos for her senior pictures. I got some good photos, but it once again bought out my lack of experience in doing formal portraits. I understand the technical stuff, I can set up some basic shots, I just am not any darn good at instructing the photographee on what to do. I watched some of the other photographers interact with their models, and they were much better at it than I. I guess it's something to work on over the winter.

My excuse for the photo above? None, I just like it. Alison has such an infectious personality, that she made up for my lack of directing ability. Plus, once again we had fun.

I have to say though, that the photo looks better on the computer then it does in the browser. I keep telling myself I need to get a handle on color spaces for the web. One more thing to put on the list for this winter.....

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Link Me Up

It's been a quiet week. A few links to tide you over.

If you're like me, ignoring the Holiday season so far, you will soon realize how far behind your are. Maybe this will help. 24 Free Christmas Photoshop Tutorials. Then again, it may just be another time sink, which won't help.

Last week NPR's On The Media had a segment on Ethics in Journalistic Portraits.

Something I've thought about doing, but procrastinated about. Free Photoguides for the US. Currently they only have a couple spots on the west coast and Hawaii.

The blog 43 Folders is better known as a place for productivity advice. It seems he is in the middle of a small crisis in confidence (my words, not his) and deciding like I did that there needs to be a different legacy than cold, hard facts. He has an interesting bit on Photography, and the Tolerance for Courageous Sucking.

Ayn Rands Atlas Shrugged updated for the internet age.

An older post from the Online Photographer about finding the dynamic range of a digital camera using a paper towel.

The photographers at the local paper, the Grand Rapids Press have their own blog.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Alter Egos

Seeing these characters in last Saturday's Christmas parade started me thinking. I'm kind of hoping I could get a photo shoot put together with these guys in costume. The logistics could be a bear and finding an appropriate location would be difficult. Where do you find a alien looking location in Grand Rapids?

Thinking more on it, I came up with a possible project. An alter ego project. I know it's been done, but I haven't done it yet. Photos of the person both in and out of character. The logistics for this might be easier, just a studio with a white background and a changing room. It would be good to expand the characters beyond the Star Wars folks. I know there are Civil War reenactors, people who go to Renissance Fairs and people who dress up as video game characters.

Trying to explore visually the way a persons character change when the clothes change. It would be an interesting project. I find myself wanting to photograph people more, but not in the classic photographic portrait style. I guess I'll have to find a studio of some sort so I can start exploring this.

Monday, November 24, 2008


I finally got around to scanning some film I shot late summer. I continue to like the look of black and white film over a digital conversion. I know there are people out there who say they can get a better black and white photograph by converting a digital file, but I'm not one of them. While it's just too easy to grab the digital camera instead of a film one, that is what I need to do.

This was taken at a grain elevator in Grant on 4 x 5 Ilford FP4.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Christmas Parades

Christmas parades have changed a lot since the last time I went. Which now that I think of it, I can't remember an actual date....

No floats, a few gussied up trucks and a lot more commercialization. The Ronald McDonald character was in the parade with a McDonalds car. Aside from the fact that the kids liked him, I don't know why he was in the parade. He didn't look any different than he does in the commercials. A lot of the parade was that way, a lot of local commercial interests interspersed between local kids groups and a few bands.

Oh well, the kids I was standing next too, seemed to like it. Maybe when they have grown, they will have the same complaints....

Friday, November 21, 2008

Touching Strangers

An article about a photo project that I'm somewhat fascinated with. The photographer approaches two strangers and takes a portrait of the two, but he has them physically touch in some way. Considering how much modern society insists on barriers and space between people, I'm amazed he finds people willing to pose.

A Conversation about Touching Strangers

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Google has put up a searchable archive of photographs from Life Magazine. The archive contains photos from the 1750's to today. I only wish you could get a set of photos by issue. http://images.google.com/hosted/life

The Magnum blog has put up an article called Wear Good Shoes: Advice to Young Photographers. Good advice even if your aren't a young photographer.

Make has an article on making your own C Stands for studio work.

While not photography related, this cartoon explains why we all have a fear of failure.

A link to a focus test chart I found on Tim Bray's Ongoing.

In the Too Funny for Words department, Thomas Kinkade's 16 Guidelines for Making Things Suck.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Another Way to Print

The local art museum had an exhibit of Andy Warhol's work early this year. All screen prints, I was surprised that I liked them so much. Like a lot of art, it's better in person than it is displayed second hand through a magazine or a web site. That's one reason I'm such a big fan of printing my photography and displaying it on the wall.

One of the local museums advertised a 6 week session on screen printing and I signed up for it. The image above is my first print that I have produced this way. A photograph I took during the Priority Health Bike race last summer that I liked, but it was somewhat underexposed and flat. I converted it to black and white, then halftoned it in Photoshop. It was then printed out on transparent film. A screen was coated with a photographic emulsion, and then exposed using the print. Then the screen was washed in water and allowed to dry. Once that was done, a bead of ink was placed on the screen and using a squeegee, forced through the screen to the paper. I was surprised how well it turned out.

A somewhat involved process, but now the screen is done, I can make multiple copies of the print whenever I like. There is also no reason I have to use black ink on white paper either.

The only downside, is that it is messy and requires a lot of water to wash the screens afterward. You really don't want the ink to dry on the screen, if it does, you throw the screen out and start over.

Definitely a process I want to explore further.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I've Been Linked

I don't get a whole lot of traffic here. I do have a Google Analytics set up, just because I'm curious. It shows me how many people have visited this every day and if I'm really curious, where they are coming from. It doesn't give me any names or personal info, at least none that I've come across, but I'm glad they don't.

I tend to check it once a week or so, and early in the week I noticed that my blog traffic had jumped. Instead of the 4 to 5 visits I get, I was getting 25. This went on for several days before dropping off.

Analytics will give you which posts are being read and I noticed that it appeared to be the Canon 50D post I did. Doing a quick Google search, I came across 1000 Noisy Cameras. I appear on a page of posts about the 50D. I'm not sure how they came across my post, but it was nice to think more people are reading this. I didn't get any comments though, so I'm not sure what the extra 100 or so people felt about the post.

The photo above is Calder's La Grande Vitesse, a stabile placed in downtown Grand Rapids 39 years ago. I was trying to get a feeling for the emptiness on the plaza on a November Saturday afternoon. The more I look at it, the more I think I have too much sky.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Quote of the Day

“The sheer ease with which we can produce a superficial image,” Mr. Adams once wrote, “often leads to creative disaster.”

I saw this in an article at the New York Times. It resonated with me and I need to remember it, especially when it is so easy to produce an image with a digital camera.

Since there is no first name, it is attributed to Ansel Adams.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Link Mode

I seem to have collected a bunch of links in the past week.

Sigma announced that they would be buying Foveon, the sensor maker they use for their cameras. Since I think Fuji uses them also, I wonder what they will do? Press Release at Digital Photo Review.

A fascinating tale of how a suitcase full of photos of the town of Hiroshima taken the first month after the Atomic Bombing were found in a trash pile.

The first time I saw the Zombie moment of McCain after the third presidential debate, I thought it was Photoshopped. It wasn't and there is an account of how it came about on the Reuters Photographers Blog.

Fashion Photographer Nick Knight is streaming a fashion shoot over the net. This runs from Monday November 10th through Wednesday November 12th. It's coming from Europe, so beware of time changes. SHOWStudio - Let There Be Light.

A post on a workflow for Black and White film. Surprisingly, he feels LightZone is better than any Adobe products for his work. I keep meaning to look at LightZone, maybe this will push me over the edge. I see they have a 30 day trial.

I'm sure I have more, but that's enough for now.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Grupo Corpo

I've never been a fan of dance, either ballet or modern. However when I came across the Brazilian dance troupe, Grupo Corpo on Ovation TV, I just couldn't tear myself away. I found a clip on YouTube, but it doesn't do the TV show justice. If you have a chance to see it, try it.

Grupo Corpo - Bach

Truth in Comics

I got a kick out of Saturday's Luann. It seems to be a microcosm of things I'm worrying about when I try to make prints.

Luann at Comics.com

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Canon 50D

After a month of using the 50D, a few thoughts. I bought the camera in early October and I've taken a little over 2000 shots since.

While I knew the pixel count was double of my old camera, I didn't really think it through. The file size is not quite double that of my old camera which was a 30D. Since I tend to use smaller size memory cards in case one goes out, I didn't realize I would basically have to replace them all. For example, I have one 4 Gb memory cards I bought because I got such a great deal on it. With the 30D, I got slightly over 400 photos on it, while with the 50D, I get slightly under 200. Which while not a big deal, means if I go out for an afternoon of shooting sports or an event I have to remember to carry extra cards.

I've also found that I'm moving files off my computer to external storage sooner. While I would back up the old files before I would keep them on my computer for a month or two while I worked on them. I find I can't do that anymore, I need to room for new photos.

Operationally, the camera is pretty much the same as the 30D. The button layout is slightly different, which annoys me. They put the erase button between the display and info buttons. Since I'm always changing what info I'm looking at depending on the circumstances, I keep hitting the erase button accidentally, especially when the light is low.

I like the fact that they put an ISO display in the viewfinder, since that has bit me in the past.

One other annoyance is that it goes through batteries faster. The battery on the 30D used to last several sessions before it would need to be recharged. I find I need to recharge these before I go out pretty much every time.

Another thing I need to look at more is the "Peripheral Illumination Correct" menu setting. From a quick glance at the menu, it corrects vignetting issues in lenses. Of course it recognizes the Canon lenses, but doesn't any others.

One annoyance I still haven't gotten over is the pixels look soft when viewed at 100%. I still haven't gotten used to this view yet, and this seems to be a common complaint when this camera is reviewed.

I've also got a Sigma macro lens that will not auto focus with this camera. It works in manual mode though, but it is a pain.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Today is election day in the United States. If you live in the US and are at an age where you are allowed to vote, you should exercise that right.

If you don't, please don't complain about the outcome.

Monday, November 3, 2008


I had the chance to photograph a Rocket Football championship game Sunday afternoon. Our contact on one of the teams got us press passes, so we had full run of the field. A great afternoon, and a good game. It was too bad that the team we were asked to photograph lost.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Day the Earth Stood Still - It's Coming

An article in todays New York Times on the movie starring Keanu Reeves.

The Cold War Parable That Fell to Earth.

A section with articles on the new Holiday movies.

New York Times Movies Special

Note, you will need to register to access these articles.

The Time, it is a Changing...

Once again, we go into daylight savings time, and once again I complain about it.

Aside from inconveniencing vast amounts of people twice a year, I'm not sure it does any good. The reason that the US Congress used to move the start and end date a few years ago, that it would save energy, was proven to be false. Of course anytime someone suggests that we just don't change the clock, it comes down to the cry of "Think about the Children". It always turns out that we need daylight to send the kids to school.

What a crock.

Just sitting and complaining again.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Zombies Attack

Thousands of Zombies took over downtown Grand Rapids Thursday evening. A local person organized an attempt at the Guiness Book of Records for the most people in a zombie walk. I've seen some estimates of the crowd at between 2 to 4 thousand people. I have to believe it was higher than that. A good time and generally well behaved.

I'm not sure if it was planned or not, but once the walk started, the crowd left the plaza and took to the streets. No police blocking them, just vast crowds walking down the middle of the roads, blocking traffic. I saw one very upset motorist, but for the most part people looked pretty amused by it. Of course you did have idiots in the crowd. I saw one guy jump up on a trapped city bus and do handstands. A little later a part of the crowd started rocking the bus.

The police finally appeared and blocked traffic. They also tried to get the roads cleared of walkers with limited success.

All in all an interesting time.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Convergence Pt. 2

Of course once it was announced that the new DSLR's would do video, the accessories had to appear. Does anyone else think this is a mite overboard? I'm sure that if you shoot video professionally you may need a rig like this, but I would imagine you would be using a real video camera also.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Graduation Photos

I did some graduation photos for a daughter of my best friends. Went out to Meijer Gardens late in the afternoon and found out we only had an hour before they closed. So we are running around trying to find good backgrounds. We had a great time. Now I just have to try to pick out the best shots.

Friday, October 24, 2008

SoFoBoMo 2009

There's been some mutterings about a Solo Photo Book Month in 2009. The originator of sofobomo, Paul Butzi has since announced that it will be continued next year.


Hopefully this year I can get past the book creation part where I stalled out last year. Once I came up with a project, taking the photos was no problem, it was putting them together where I crashed and burned.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Wesley Strikes Again

For some reason science fiction shows on TV always seemed to have a cute kid. It started with Lost in Space, they were in the original Battlestar Galactica, Seaquest DSV and probably others. I guess they figure that science fiction is only for kids and they need one in the show. Thankfully they've seemed to stop this annoying practice for new shows.

For me, it peaked with Wesley Crusher in Star Trek - The Next Generation. It never made sense to me that a teenager would be appointed to effectively drive a huge spaceship with hundreds of people on board. I mean, what happened to the folks who were supposed to do it? Plus I never really cared about the character.

Wil Wheaton, who played the Wesley part was on Criminal Minds last night. My wife watches the show regularly and had it on while I was working on something. Wil did a very credible job, but I just couldn't get past the Wesley character. I could easily see how Wesley could turn into the character on this show. Since he was the evil, bad guy, there was a chase scene near the end of the show and all I could think was that they should just stop chasing him and just shoot him. Preferably in the head. But no, he got his just desserts a few minutes later in a somewhat trite ending.

Wil Wheatons Blog

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Face Collector

I came across the blog of someone who wants the title "Face Collector" printed on his business cards. Somehow that just works for me. An incredible title that rates right up there with "Ruler of the Known and Unknown Universe" on a business card. Much better than some boring title thought up by a bean counter somewhere.

Plus he's got some great photos. I wish I did street portraits as well.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Busy Weekend

It was busy this weekend. Saturday morning, I helped hang a display of photographs at the Biggby's Coffee shop in Cascade. Once again I planned this for one of the local camera clubs. At times, trying to get everything together and pull this off seemed like herding cats.

In the afternoon, I did some graduation photos for a friends daughter.

Bright and before early Sunday, I went out and photographed the Grand Rapids Marathon. A great day, and since I had a volunteer shirt on, I was able to pretty much go where I want.

I just need to go through all the photographs I took this weekend, I think it will take a bit.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Strange Colors

That mysterious object called film seems to be still holding on. I came across an article on cross processing film today at epicedits.com. It's good to see that some people still value film and the various looks it can give you.

It's also amusing that people will try to recreate those looks with photoshop when it would be much easier to actually shoot film in the first place.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Fraction Magazine

An online magazine of photography. The September 2008 issue which is still up when I write this, has a section on Bill Schwab, a Michigan photographer currently residing near Harbor Springs who I follow. Some interesting stuff there and another place to look at other photographers work.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Grand Haven

Some photos from Grand Haven, taken Saturday evening. A simply gorgeous day for October with a lot of people on the beach and even some kids playing in the water. Saw a couple wedding parties and someone doing what looked like senior portraits. While we were at the beach, we were set up on a small hill with about 6 other photographers, with another small army of people with cameras on the beach below us.

After the sun went down, we headed into town to shoot. All in all a great evening.

Friday, October 10, 2008


On the photography blogs I follow, there's a big discussion of still/video convergence driven by the release of new cameras like the 5D MkII and the D90. These cameras, to a varying degree allow one to not only take still pictures, but do video also.

Luminous-landscape.com is pushing this convergence and threatening dire things for photographers who don't jump on the bandwagon. There has been a counter view to these comments growing on sites like Paul Butzi's Musings on Photography.

I've shot video before, though it has been a while. I did some community access stuff for a while when I lived in the Kalamazoo area. While I liked the documentary aspect of it, doing a good video is hard. This was reinforced in a conversation I had yesterday. I was talking to a salesman at the local camera store about the new cameras. He was a current owner of the Canon 5D and was considering buying the new 5D MkII, primarily for the video capability. We segued into talking about toolsets to manipulate the video and he started telling me about a 10 minute video he had helped create. It turns out there was a story they wanted to film for a local non-profit. For the 10 minute video, it took 5 people multiple evenings to shoot, then someone worked over 40 hours to put the show together.

Even if you don't shoot for a story and go for a documentary, you still have to worry about sound, story continuity, and that big bugaboo, editing. I think the camera companies are adding video features because it is an easy thing to add and another check mark on a marketing campaign.

Let me add that while I don't think video is good for most still photographers, there are a couple industry segments that I do think need to jump on this bandwagon with both feet. Those are the photojournalists and wedding photographers. I can see where shooting video could be beneficial and hopefully pull in more money.

Since I haven't actually seen or handled any cameras that actually have these capabilities yet, I suppose I could be out in left field. But I don't think so and will pretty much be ignoring video for a while.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Officially called the "Cloud Gate" or something like that, this is mostly called the bean. Situated in Millenium Park in Chicago, it attracts a big crowd during the day and even a few early in the morning.

We were in Chicago this past weekend and I made it to this area twice this trip. Once in the afternoon when the crowds were out and once at 6:30 in the morning. Even in the morning, I was not the only person there. Other photographers appeared, early morning joggers and couples stopped by and of course the usual security person.

I was wondering while I was looking at the photos I took, what the attraction of mirrored surfaces are, especially if they are curved. One person commented on my Flickr photos and wondered if there was a camera convention going on since there were so many photographers in the photos.

Even though I wonder, I still think it's fascinating.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Book Deals

I've talked about photo books before, and how I believe that you need to look at a lot of photography to help become a better photographer.

Since then I've found out that the publishing house Taschen is releasing a bunch of books in a 25 year anniversary special. Like this one. The books are on the small side, but they seem to be printed nicely and best of all they are cheap.

I'm sure the photo book afficionados probably don't care much for them, but the editions are a good way to look at photography without breaking the bank.

Monday, October 6, 2008

David Plowden

I've always liked photographer David Plowden who made his career photographing the great plains and the midwest. I own the book of photographs he did at the Sou Locks in upper Michigan, and I want to get the one he did on barns. I was disappointed to learn that he has stopped photographing. He is though, still producing books with one coming out late in 2010.

A interview with him is up at Studio 360, with him talking about how the subjects he preferred are disappearing.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Pacific Landscapes

I started going through my photos from my San Jose trip. These are from my drive Sunday down the Pacific Coast Highway, just south of San Francisco. I'm not used to weather around mountains, while it was foggy and 60 near the ocean, it was sunny and 90, 30 miles away in San Jose.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Left Coast

I spent Sunday driving the Pacific coast between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz. A nice drive, with interesting scenery. Surprisingly empty considering how close it is to the San Fransisco to San Jose corridor. The Pacific Coast Highway (CA-1) is close to the water, with lots of places to get off the road as well as regular, easy access to the shoreline.

Even on the few hours I spent, I saw a lot of great things to photograph, running the gamut from wildlife, through landscapes and scenery, ending up with people shots. It seems to me that a photographer could pick any one of those broad categories and be hard pressed not to be able to take great photographs.

Hopefully I will be able to put up some photos from the drive later on in the week.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


When I go to a new town lately, I don't buy a map like I used to. Now, I just go to Google maps and print out the directions I think I need. This works reasonable well if the places I need to go are within town or close by. If I need to go a ways away, they don't work quite as well. I've had a couple of instances, once today, where the map Google gave me, wasn't quite up to snuff. Oh, it got me there, but buy a route I probably wouldn't have taken if I had planned it myself.

I've also noticed on a few of the local routes, that the routes they give you are probably not the best way to get where you want to go. Once again, you get where you want to go, but you manage to see some scenery you wouldn't normally see.

The point to point directions Google or any other mapping company gives you also don't help if you decide to change your plans in the middle of the day. I think in the future I'll probably start buying maps again. At least that way I can double check where I think I'm going.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

M & M Premiums?

I came across a box of M&M premium candies in a drugstore earlier in the week. I noticed they wanted $5 for a 6 oz box of chocolate. By my quick in the head calculations, that works out to about $15 or so per pound. Not something I would expect or pay for a brand I never considered upscale. Something else I expect to come and go quickly.

Monday, September 22, 2008


There should be a special circle in Dante's Inferno for the people who design the coach sections on airlines.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Big Polaroid

Polaroid had a set of cameras that produced 20x24 inch prints. I believe there were only 6 or so made and if you wanted to use one, you rented it and the support team who actually ran the camera. When Polaroid announced they were ceasing production of their instant film, I wondered what was going to happen to those cameras.

Wandering around the web this morning, it turns out that the cameras and the rights to the processes have been bought by another company who will continue to provide this service. Now if only I had the money to rent one of these things and a subject I thought was worth it.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Gordon Parks

We went to see the exhibit of Gordon Parks photography at the Grand Rapids Art Museum one last time before it closes at the end of the month. I saw the display the day it opened, but it was crowded and hard to really look at the work. This time, there were only 2 or 3 other people in the gallery and it was easy to linger over a print.

As I was looking at the work, I was struck by how starkly simple the image was, but what complicated stories they tell. It's all photographic black and white prints or what is called "silver gelatin" these days. Most of it would be called "street photography" these days, though after reading a little bit about some of the work, it appears that some of it was planned rather than being captured in a decisive moment.

What I was struck by most is how it all told a story. In these days where most photography is about special effects and super saturated colors, it's a refreshing contrast. Some of the stories were subtle, some of them the kind that reached out and grabbed you, but the were all excellent.

A good portion of the work displayed was social commentaries, with pieces like his poignant photo of Ella Watson mimicking the American Gothic painting. Mixed in were pieces like this photo of Ethel Shariff or his iconic photo of Muhammad Ali which showed his strong portrait background.

There being only 34 photographs in the exhibit, it is more an introduction to a part of his work, not a complete catalog. One thing I would have liked to see was his art photographs. It also would have been nice to have an overview of his other works, like his films and books. Definitely a renaissance man. If you have a chance to see the exhibit, I would recommend it.

More photos of Ella Watson.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Truth in Photography?

I've pretty much been the kind of photographer who doesn't do much to his photographs. I'll crop, resize, adjust contrast and make sure the exposure is correct. It's pretty much the same whether I'm in front of the computer or in the wet darkroom. If I'm in Photoshop and want to do much more than that, I need to get out the books to figure it out. So far I've resisted the urge to modify anything, much less change the sky or add the moon to a photograph. I've always been the sort to say that a photograph is a truthful representation of what I saw.

Now I know that is not really the case, a photograph is more a truthful representation of what I wanted to see, especially since it's colored by the passage of time. I don't work on my photographs the minute I take them, whether it's digital or film. It's usually several hours later, sometimes days, and even a week. Even after I finish a photograph, sometimes I'll come back to it months later and decide I want to change something. I may have not liked the final product in some ways, whether it was the crop or the exposure. I may even rework the photograph based on the audience for it. The same image can be subtly reworked depending on whether I'm showing it in the camera club, hanging it for display, or printing it for a friend. In all these cases, I'm working on what I remember about the scene, aided by the image in front of me.

There is also editorial type decisions to make. Using the example of the image at the top of this article, it looks like a calm pastoral scene. Someone out kayaking in early morning or evening. Calm, quiet, peaceful. Exactly what I wanted you to see. The reality was somewhat different. It was a beautiful quiet morning, with mist rising above the water. What I don't show you was the other boats to his left and right, and the gaggle of swimmers to his right also.

This image was taken at a triathlon in town and he was one of the guard boats watching the swim portion of the race. I'm sure he was having fun, but he was working and probably not that calm.

Just food for thought.

Friday, September 12, 2008

More Politics

While not quite as cutting as the I'm Voting Republican video, these two clips of an overview of the two national conventions are funny. They are only a minute apiece, so it won't take you long to view them.

I'm also wondering if we can vote next week? I'm not sure I can handle 6 more weeks of the presidential race.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I'm voting Republican...

I saw this on the Ubiquitous Lens, she had me worried for a minute..

See www.imvotingrepublican.com

Ease of use

An interesting post and discussion about how ease of use should not be a factor in photography any more than other kinds of art. He basically says that we shouldn't be using digital imaging primarily because it is easier, which tends to be a main reason a lot of people use to justify it.

Part of me agrees, but not everyone has a group of friends that want to open a color darkroom and keep it busy. Though it would be fun.


Monday, September 8, 2008

Ranting yet again

I read this morning that the government is taking over the two big housing mortage companies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Just because they were worried about them. First Behr Stearns, then several banks, the car companies want money and now this. On top of the war in Iraq, I wonder who's paying for all this? What happened to risk versus reward? What happened to capitalism?

All these companies made a lot of money when times were good and also a lot of poor decisions. I know it would be painful, but maybe some of these just need to go bankrupt and out of business.

And the presidential candidates are still talking tax cuts.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Celebration on the Grand - Fireworks

They have a big festival every fall the weekend after Labor Day here called Celebration on the Grand. There are of course fireworks to help kick it off.

More here - Flickr COTG 2008 Set

Friday, September 5, 2008


After putting photos on aminus3.com for a couple weeks, I've decided to keep both of these blogs. This page will have some photography, but hopefully more written content as well. Since I like a black background for photography, but not for text, I've changed the look of this blog a little. For me at least, black text on a light background is easier to read. Hopefully you will agree. The look of this page will probably continue to evolve.

I've come to like the other site for posting photographs, though it has some warts. It's set up to currently only allow one photo per day. It would be hard to tell a multi photo story on that site. Additionally I keep track of the number of visitors to this page by using Google Analytics, for the other page, you have to buy a membership for that.

I also still struggle with color management on the web. Photos I upload, even though they are converted to jpeg, look different. Even under Safari, which supposedly honors color spaces where the other browsers I use do not.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The New Camera Clubs

Last week I was out with a group of folks on an event that Scott Kelby put together called the National Photowalk. Not the precise name, but you get the idea. Basically a series of photowalks put on to promote his new book. There were prizes and the promise of fame you could get by being picked the winner.

The local walk was promoted on Flickr, and a majority of the people participating were from the Grand Rapids Flickr group. During the walk, one of the participants asked if Flickr was a camera club.

This was brushed off by someone with a chuckle, "No, of course it's not".

I disagree, in fact this question sort of jelled things up for me. I am a active participant in one of the local camera clubs. I've met a lot of good people there and actually learned things. Do I care for all of the experience? No, but it's more positive than negative. Positive enough that I became a board member to try to change things.

Traditional clubs have photo competitions, educational opportunities, workshops and social gatherings. A lot of what a traditional photo club does is grounded in what they've been doing over the years. There is a major resistance to change, and anything that doesn't fit the "camera club" style is dismissed. Since there haven't been a lot of alternatives, if a person didn't like the club, they either stuck with it or left. It's unfortunate, since it leaves out a lot of good work from a lot of people.

Now let's look at an online group. These allow you to upload photos, have them commented on, and usually have a social interaction via an electronic forum. They are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Someone is usually available to comment on something or just to chat. Like a traditional club, they have a preferred style of photography. The weakness is that there is usually no local people to go to photowalks with, at least very often. Depending on the site, there are usually educational opportunities and people to discuss them with. Unlike a local club, if you don't fit in with the "style" of the group, it's easy to leave and join another. Also there are usually no monetary or time commitments.

I belong to three online groups, let's look at them.

The first is APUG, or the Analog Photography Users Group. As you could guess by the name, this group is a specialist forum for film based photography. This could be called the traditional style of web groups, with mostly forums. Along with the forums, there are articles written by members, and a classified section. There are regional groups, and sometimes they get together once a year or so. To fully participate in this group there is a fee.

The second is the MWLFA or the Mid West Large Format Asylum. I would place this group as the prototypical regional specialist type of group. Loosely based in the Chicago area, since that is where most of the active members live, they have a mailing list and a forum. They also have monthly outings throughout the area where the members get together. This group charges no fees, though members split costs where needed on outings.

The last and the 900 pound gorilla of the bunch is Flickr. Ostensibly a photo sharing site, there is a huge community hosted there also. While you can use the service for hosting photos to show your friends and neighbors, there is a lot more if you care to explore. There are groups relating to almost anything you want, from specific cameras and even lens to the different colors. There are city and state groups, along with groups for parks. If you can't find a group you want, it is easy enough to start one. If you care to get feedback on your photos, there are critique groups. Note, you're not going to get art school style critiques, Flickr is very democratic. The local group is very active with photowalks and get togethers scheduled all the time.

Like a traditional photo club, the online groups are only as good as the leaders of the group, whether they are elected or not. Also like any other group, you only get out of it what you put into it.

I've wondered for a while why local camera clubs aren't more popular given the resurgence photography is having. I've come to believe that it is a combination of lack of free time for people and the resistance to change in the club. Both of which are not an issue in a 24 hour/7 day a week freewheeling service like Flickr.

I believe that the online forums are the new camera clubs and the traditional clubs will have to become more like them by offering more services, more of the time or wither and die.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


The first thing I had done on Saturday morning was to go to Zeeland for a Michigan Ropers Association Team Roping competition.  The of course, involves horses, cows and the ropers in an incredible ballet.  Everyone knows his/her place and role, including the cows.  Of course the cows get the short end of the stick and every once in a while complains about it.  

This is a timed competition over several heats where the shortest total time wins.   There is a supporting cast, with another person on a horse with a flag deciding when the second rope is attached.  There are also timers, and people handling the cows.  They do this at least twice a month over the summer and go inside when it starts getting too cold.  The logistics while well know are somewhat daunting.

This competition comes out of the old need to rope cows for branding.  While I'm not sure it is needed that much, at least in the midwest, I'm sure they need it somewhere.

I had went to one of these last year and got some great images.  I was planning on doing a photographic project on this subject during the summer, but things got in the way.  Hopefully next year.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

ByrneBoehm Show

The ByrneBoehm Gallery show opened Friday. There was an opening reception Saturday evening. I had two pieces accepted into the show, so of course I went. The work that I submitted were two platinum/palladium prints I had done in a class at GRCC earlier in the summer. Two other of my fellow students in that class also had work in the show.

There is a lot of good photography in the show. I got a chance to talk to the owner of the gallery, and he mentioned that he didn't think the judges would pick so many pieces. I got the feeling he only wanted enough work to cover a wall, rather than take over the whole gallery.

Of the work presented, a couple of pieces I recognized from the show at the regional art show earlier in the year. I actually hadn't thought about resubmitting the same work, being new at the whole show thing, I had submitted new work.

One of the artists was a grad student at the local arts college, Kendall, whose work I had seen earlier in the year. Of the remaining work, I wrote down the names of a couple artists just to see if I could follow them if they had a web site or blog. Of the five names I wrote down, one was a photography instructor at Grand Valley State University, one is a professional photographer working for the Grand Rapids Press, and two of the others are professionals who have worked at photography in bigger cities than Grand Rapids and do photography full time.

A lot of the work was edgier than I'm used to presenting. My photography tends to be more of the reportage type, where I capture what I see rather than try to set something up. While I doubt I can change too much the way I work, if I want to continue to try to compete in this type of show, I may need to.

It was a good time, I talked to a bunch of folks and learned a few things. The GVSU professor was doing pinhole photography using a home built 4x5 camera with color film. Since I like the way pinhole photography looks, I may have a new impetus to get going and build my own camera.

I had to leave before they unveiled the winner of the cash prize. I already knew it wasn't me.

More stuff to think about.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Presque Isle

The Lake Superior coastline at Presque Isle park in Marquette. I've gushed about Marquette earlier, it's scenes like these that I like this city.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Ira Glass on Working Through the Suck

A video on how it takes a creative person years to perfect the craft and advice to keep going. Originally seen on 43 Folders.

Lower Au Train Falls

We found these falls while driving between Munising and Marquette. While not on the map we had, they were plainly marked on the road. They are downstream of a power company dam and appear to be on the companies property. There is a paved road to access them as well as parking areas. The last hill to these is blocked with a gate, so you have to walk down the hill and back up. If you can ignore the building next to these, they are quite picturesque.

This is a portion of the actual falls, we were there in the middle of the day, so the light was not what I desired. We we running a bit later then we wanted, so we didn't get to the upper falls.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Photo Blogging

I've been doing this since the beginning of the year and I've discovered I like it. While this site is free, it does have one annoyance, the photos display too small. Looking at it, I found out that the photos are kept in Googles Picasa webalbums. Looking at their preferences, I don't see any way to change the photo size.

Because of this, I've decided to evaluate other blogging platforms. I've tried Wordpress and quickly discounted it. I have decided to create a blog on Aminus3.com though. I've uploaded the first photo, which is the Mackinac Bridge pic and I like the result.

Pluses to the site are the photo size and the fact it seems to be directed just at being a photo blog. Minuses are it appears you can't write long winded articles or post more than one photo a page.

I'm going to do parallel posts for a while, and decide in a month or so what I'm going to do. I may even do both, this page for the long winded posts and that site for just photos.

See http://sscherbinski.aminus3.com

Please let me know what you think.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Mackinac Bridge

Images from last week. The first one is the Mackinac Bridge at night. This was taken on the Upper Peninsula side of the straights. Definitely a Michigan photography cliche shot, there were 4-5 other folks with tripods and SLR style cameras, and also a bunch of folks wandering in and out of the park and trying to get a shot with point and shoots. But I like it.

I was talking to a gentleman and his wife who was near me. They were from Kansas and this was their first time to the area. They were heading home and going to Traverse City next.

One thing I do find is that people with cameras like to talk. You meet a lot of interesting folks.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

I was there, just ask Photoshop

The above is the title of an article in todays New York Times. It describes how folks are more and more editing photographs to add or remove someone. I think some of the reasons given are valid and some not so much. But an interesting article nonetheless and a barometer on changing attitudes on photography.

I was there, just ask Photoshop


We stopped in Marquette for a day, the first time I've been in the city. Frankly, I was very impressed with this town. Downtown was vibrant, clean and busy. They've worked over the waterfront and put in parks, a boardwalk and bike paths. They appear to still value the history of the town. Of course this was August, I'm not sure I would feel the same way in January.

They do have a working lighthouse which you can tour. You have to sign up and be escorted, since the only access is through the Coast Guard base. The strange part is, there are no fences or guards, just a few no trespassing signs promising long prison stays. We were told the base only has 18 personnel, and I think there main job is to keep the light going. They have a couple small boats, but no helicopter or ship. It was kind of strange considering all the ship traffic going to the iron mine a couple miles down the coast.

I will have to go back and spend more time around this town. There were plenty of photographic possibilities I missed.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Observations and a rant....

We've been on vacation this week and have been wandering the Upper Peninsula. We ended up driving to the Porcupine Mountains and back, and there was plenty of time to think.

There are way too many abandoned buildings along the way. I always wonder, especially when I see a house in the middle of nowhere, what it was like when they were built. What did the people dream about and what did they want for them and their children? It gets kind of depressing at times.

We ended up seeing three eagles along the way. One pair which we saw on two separate days, had a mature bird and an immature bird. This one we saw on the way home. All 3 birds were seen while we were driving and of course the lens I should have used was in the trunk. This is a crop out of a bigger photo.

Crows in the Upper Peninsula seem bigger than the ones in the lower half of the state. There are also a lot of them.

We don't camp on vacations, we stay in hotels. A seemingly ubiquitous component of the provided breakfast is waffle machines. There are batter dispensers with directions on usage posted on the side. There is the waffle iron that requires you to pour in the batter and turn it over to start the timer. If you don't turn the iron, the thing starts beeping. Not a soft unassuming beep, but a loud obnoxious beep. Why is it that people who don't read directions, stand there and stare at the iron when it beeps for minutes? Don't they realize that something is wrong? It is really annoying at 7 am when all you want is coffee and a chance to collect your thoughts.

I could easily spend a month or more just traveling along M28 down the center of the UP. There are so many photographic possibilities to be had that it was hard not to stop in every small town, tourist trap, waterfall and whatever.

We spent most of our vacation driving to, staring at, and sitting alongside water. Usually water that was flowing somehow, whether it was going over a waterfall, flowing along a river or lapping up to shore. What is there about flowing water that fascinates humankind so much?

I was really getting frustrated with the limited dynamic range of digital cameras. There were so many instances of being someplace, usually the woods, where I couldn't capture the delicate range of light in the shadowed parts along with the direct sunlight filtering through the leaves. At times I wished I had brought along my film camera and color film. I know I can spend time in Photoshop to get around those limitations, but I wish the camera companies would stop the megapixel race and work on other improvements.

Ok, there is more than a single rant, one more. On the way up, we stopped at a Burger King in L'Anse for a cup of coffee. They only charged me 40 cents for it and I just thought it was on sale. That was until I got out and looked at the receipt. The cashier had charged me the senior price. I should have gone back and hit her with my cane...

Just kidding.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Free Speech Zone?

Being a reasonably big city, Grand Rapids has its share of folks trying to get your attention and sometimes your money. Salesman, the homeless, street performers and street preachers.

There is one persistent street preacher that I've seen twice this year at big crowds. The first time was at the local Festival of the Arts. He was out with the same sign and a big crowd on a Friday evening. The crowd had to number at least a hundred. There were even 3 or 4 GR police to make sure things didn't get out of hand. I saw him several times that evening, usually in a heated discussion with someone, trying to sell them his brand of religion.

The second time was this past week at the blues concert put on by a local radio station. He was there and once again had attracted a crowd. It was a much smaller crowd, but he was trying to convince them with the same zeal he showed earlier. I passed the crowd several times that evening and it never was very big, especially considering the thousands that were listening to the concert just yards away.

It looks like the radio station finally figured he was a big enough nuisance and tried to kick him out. Several security guards with the radio stations logo on them appeared and asked him to leave. He didn't want to go and they finally called the police, who "convinced" him to leave.

I would consider the area he was in, Rosa Parks circle near the new art museum to be the closest thing the city has to a public commons. The fact that someone can rent it and effectively change it to a private area bothers me.