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.