Even if you are stuck at home, there are so many ways to grow your photography and stay inspired. I made this vlog to share with you some ideas to keep making great work with what you have on hand, and I talk about how Edward Weston made one of the most famous photos ever during a time of great hardship and limited resources. At ~5:50 I talk about the effect photography has on my wellbeing and why I I think it’s important to keep photographing.
When you’re done watching the video, here’s some links to things discussed in the video:
How we approach photography is shaped by our experiences. This episode of my vlog shares some of my foundational experiences, how they shaped my vision and my expectations for quality, and gives some of the backstory behind what I teach.
What are some experiences that have shaped your photography?
Right now as we’re all on some sort of lockdown for Corona Virus and many stores and services are limited, I’m recommending you don’t update your software, particularly system software.
Updates don’t always go right, and sometimes they can take down your system. If that happens you might be stuck without the use of your computer, phone, or favorite software for an indeterminate amount of time.
I learned this the hard way many times over in my years of managing the servers and IT at West Coast Imaging. So much so that I set up rules for when I would never start a upgrade or major IT project. Here’s a few I can remember off the top of my head:
No upgrades in the week before a trip. Having your system down when you are trying to focus on a trip is a real drag.
No upgrades before a major project. My workflow is carefully validated to produce the results I expect. Software updates can throw kinks into that workflow, and that’s the last think I want when working on a deadline project.
No upgrades going in to the weekend. I spent too many weekends at work over the years. Don’t set yourself up for a problem that will take your days off to fix.
No updates when a major storm is predicted. (Winter storms could shut down our small mountain town entirely!)
A quick look at these tells me that now is not the time to upgrade. Basically, remember that Murphy’s law is always in effect, and don’t start a mess you can’t get yourself out of. I’ve been bit more times than I care to remember on what I though would be simple, quick upgrades. Fortunately I know how to get myself out of most of the messes, but there is still a cost in time and frustration. If you don’t know how to fix it yourself, don’t do it till this health crisis is over.
I’d recommend that you go through your devices and software and turn off the “Auto-Update” features so that you can be sure nothing updates without your permission. Auto updates are ok for email and web only users who don’t rely on their computers. I work on mine and down time hurts me and is frustrating. In my case, I want every update to be something I plan and initiate.
Before major updates, like system software or critical software, I always do three fresh clones of my boot drive so I can quickly “roll back” to a previous state if the update fails or is wonky. And the times I’ve need those backups, I’ve REALLY needed them.
And while I’m on the subject, don’t be the first to install new updates or new versions of software. With system software, give new versions about six months for the bugs to be worked out, and a couple months for the incremental security updates. For software like Photoshop, I give it a month or two, and I usually keep the old version installed so that I can still use it if Adobe mucks something up.
And if you’ve had an upgrade disaster happen like I have, share it in the comments so I can commiserate with you!
As the current Corona Virus situation unfolds, many of us are going to be spending more time at home, and more time in some sort of semi-isolation. I don’t know about you, but being closed off from my normal day-to-day is going to have me climbing the walls soon, so I want to suggest to you that this extra time is an opportunity to keep growing in your photography.
The good news is that we can keep photographing wherever we are, with whatever we have. Even inside our homes there are whole worlds to explore. The 20th century photographer Edward Weston https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Weston made his famous “pepper” photos during a time when he was so poor he had to ration himself to one sheet of film a day, and the peppers he used as subjects became his meals. Out of those challenging circumstances, he made enduring images, and his photograph “Pepper #30” sets records at art auctions.
Don’t let equipment be a barrier either. When I was studying photography in college, one of my classmates did an amazing series on shoes for our product photography class, using just a desk-lamp and long exposures to light paint. The result was something that equaled the best photos produced in a NYC studio. Cost and equipment isn’t a barrier. Weston’s Pepper #30 was made putting a pepper into a steel funnel as a “background.”
Even if we are avoiding social settings, nature remains open. From our yard, to green spaces and parks, there is a whole world we can explore while still keeping ourselves safe. Spring is upon us and every day gives new possibilities as flowers bloom and trees leaf out. Get down on your hands and knees with a macro lens and see what’s growing and photograph it!
The learning can also continue at the processing stage. I don’t know about you, but I have a whole host of “to learns” from new software packages, to techniques, to photos I’ve been meaning to get back to. Pick one of those and take advantage of the chance to dive in as deep as you can go. If you’ve been putting off learning Photoshop, now is a perfect time to learn!
Those are my ideas, and I’d love to hear yours! Tell me what projects you’re planning on pursuing.
Next weekend I’ll be in Cartersville Georgia to attend the the opening reception for Robert Glenn Ketchum’s latest show. This will be the second largest exhibit of Ketchum’s career and he’s done a very nice writeup describing the show for people who can’t attend:
I’m honored that five of the 48″x66″ Fuji Crystal Archive prints my team at West Coast Imaging made will be featured in the show. Seeing them hanging in this setting is going to be spectacular.
I’ll also be participating in the gallery walk to talk about the process and answer any questions.
Ketchums long time Cibachrome printer Michael Wilder will also be in attendance and I’m looking forward to meeting this master of the craft. Wilder’s client list is a who’s who of modern photography, and I anticipate he will have many valuable insights into the craft.
It’s going to be a great celebration of Ketchum’s vision and the legacy he has worked so hard to create by preserving our wild places.
Most photographers I know are just fudging on their exposures. We all talk about Expose to the Right (ETTR) and try and read the histogram, and look at the highlight warnings to make a decision, but mostly we’re relying on the wide exposure latitude of our cameras to make it work. And it mostly works…until it doesn’t.
When it doesn’t, we have blow out highlights, lost shadow detail, and increased noise in our images. On my most recent Exposure workshop, we had cameras that were metering up to two stops off.
There has to be a better way!
Fortunately there is! And it’s easy enough for a beginner, but accurate enough for a pro.
This workshop is going to give you more certainty in your exposures. With a simple process, we’re going to calibrate your light meter so that it becomes more accurate than judging histograms or highlight warnings (blinkies.) Once your camera is properly calibrated, you’ll have the tools to get the best exposure any time, any where.
I want to invite you to the the opening for Robert Glenn Ketchum’s latest exhibition. The opening includes a unique opportunity to hear Robert Glenn Ketchum speak on his long career and the influence Elliot Porter had on his use of color and use of photography as a vehicle for preservation of wilderness.
One of the “masters” of landscape photography, Ketchum’s book “The Tongass: Alaska’s Vanishing Wilderness” helped define the modern genre of conservation photography. He continues to be a defining influence in landscape photography as he pushes the bounds of the medium with new work that explore abstraction and new means of presentation. This exhibit is a rare chance to see how his vision has evolved over his career.
The exhibit consists of three rooms, starting with works by Elliot Porter, then moving to a comprehensive retrospective of Ketchum’s career. Print processes from dye-transfer to Cibachrome and Fuji Crystal Archive prints will be on display. I’m very proud to say I had a part, with my team at West Coast Imaging, in producing the large Fuji prints.
For the student of photography, this opening is quite the trifecta as it explores the vision of these two photographers, the process, and the effective use of art for preservation. Ketchum’s passion and understanding of art, photography, and conservation is infectious, and my many conversations with him over the years always leave me with new insight and inspiration. That’s why I highly recommend making the trip to hear the artist talk and gallery walk that are part of the opening reception.
The Booth Museum is about 3.5 hours from Nashville, in Cartersville, Georgia. Atlanta is about an hour south of Cartersville.
Saturday March 21, 10am—4pm Technology Engagement Center 306 Minerva Drive Murfreesboro, TN
Fee – $75 per student
This lab session is a companion to my Color and Black & White Processing classes. It offers you an extended time to apply the techniques I’ve shown you, and to have more printing time.
Expect a very hands on class. You’ll be processing and printing the entire time, and I’ll be bouncing from student to student, working one-on-one with each of you to evaluate prints and make processing recommendations.
Lab sessions are about working on your photographs, while tapping into my guidance and insight. Through the feedback loop of process, print, and evaluate, we can troubleshoot the issues you are having and improve your processing and printing. This is not a structured and systematic walk through of techniques like my other classes. Rather, it is like a practice session, where you have extended time to apply what you know and refine your understanding of processing in the best way I know how, through applying them to your photographs and making prints.
A major objective of these sessions is learning to see how your photograph can be turned into a great print. By improving a photograph through a series of prints, you see the potential of the process, which improves your processing techniques as well as your prints.
Working alongside other photographers is another enriching part of the experience. Seeing what others are working on and how they are working is a learning experience unto itself, and provides a prospective that goes beyond what we get working alone when we are at home.
This class is open to any photographer at any level. There are no pre-requisite classes, but you should feel comfortable working in the editing/processing software of your choice. You don’t need to be an expert, just eager to improve and learn.
Print materials will be provided to make 5-7 prints, as time allows. The library has computers with Lightroom and Photoshop available, or bring your own computer.
Saturday February 29, 10am—4pm Technology Engagement Center 306 Minerva Drive Murfreesboro, TN
Fee – $150 per student
This workshop is designed to teach you the processing tools and techniques that have allowed me to make beautiful prints for myself and for my professional clients in over twenty years of fine art printmaking. To maximize the learning potential, this class is limited to four participants.
This is part one of a series of workshops. We’ll start the day with an overview of the tools and techniques we’ll be working with, and then spend the rest of the day applying those techniques as you process and print your own images. Working hands-on allows us to solve your problems with your images, working towards achieving professional quality results.
We’ll be working in Photoshop, taking advantage of some of its unique properties that are difficult to replicate in other software. You do not need to be a fluent Photoshop user, but you should be comfortable using editing software and have some experience in file processing. This class is meant to teach foundations, so you don’t need to be an expert! The tools are actually very easy. Learning to “see” how to use them is the hard part, and the aspect we will focus most on.
Current hard drive costs at a glance with links to purchase from Amazon. I recommend Seagate hard drives because they continue to test as some of the longest lasting drives at backblaze.com.
Highlights for January include a minor price increase on 6Tb and 10TB external drives, as well as slight changes to internal drives as noted. The days of storage prices dropping quickly seem to be over as drive capacities become so large. Also of note is that 2Tb external drives are now all “portable” meaning they are 2.5″ laptop drives that are bus powered. For my main storage I prefer to have external 3.5″ drives that are plugged in to an external power source, so that means buying a 4TB drive or larger.
10TB external drives are still a big savings over 10TB Internal drives. Also, on a cost per TB basis, 10TB drives are getting close enough to the sweet spot of pricing to make them attractive if you need that kind of storage. But I generally don’t recommend buying more than a year’s capacity at a time to protect from price changes. Also remember that a properly backed up “storage set” requires three drives, so buying more than you reasonably need (over provisioning) can suck up a lot of money.
Sometimes external drives are less expensive than internal drives. Advanced users may want to explore “shucking” external drives to save money as the external drives are often, but not always, SATA drives that can be used as an internal drive.