What is the Best?

Every year I go through all of the images I shot and pick out the 10 I like best.  It is pretty easy to get down to twenty or so, just by selecting all of the images marked as picks and then weeding through those.   I pull out all of the ones of my family and then it gets tougher.  It is hard, because there is no “right” answer.  Our perceptions of any art, are personal and subjective.  Usually I ask my family to go through my top 25 and make their picks, but that is more to understand what appeals to them.  That might influence what and how I shoot next year, but rarely does it push me one way or another for what I include in my list. These three images wound up as my top 3 favorites for the year.

 Young Fiesta Dancer

Young Fiesta Dancer

 Sunset from Clingman's Dome

Sunset from Clingman's Dome

 Late Afternoon Last Rays of Light

Late Afternoon Last Rays of Light

When I have completed my listing, I then try something even harder.  In December, the Photoshop instructor and commercial photographer Jim DiVitale lost his battle with cancer.  He hosted one of my favorite Photoshop World Events, which had nothing to do with Photoshop.  It was a panel of some of the best photographers in the world, showing off their work.  As the host, he included a portfolio of his work as well and it took me a while to grow to appreciate the quality and artistry of his stuff, as he shot a lot of pure commercial, often product based work. That’s not what I shoot, so I tended to just kind of skim over his stuff.  One year, I really looked at his work and recognized how good it really was.   http://www.jimdivitale.net/f169019865  and http://www.divitalephotography.com/#  

 Fall

Fall

At Photoshop World, they offer an opportunity to have one of the staff review your portfolio.   As it turned out, I drew Mr. DiVitale and it was a very interesting experience.  He took a look at my photos and said they were good work, but what story did they tell?   We talked for the 15 minutes allocated on how to really put together a portfolio, and how you always need to be asking this one simple question—“Is this photograph good enough to replace one in my portfolio?”  As a commercial guy and as an art director, he felt strongly that you need to show off only your best work, and that your portfolio, should have no more than 10 images.  So every year, you should be asking yourself that question and if the answer is no, none of the images I shot are better than what I have already done, then you need to be thinking “why not?”   If your work is not getting better, then what are you going to do about it?  

That question is what drives me to keep shooting.  Art is not a competition, unless it is against yourself.  Can you capture what your mind sees when you look through that viewfinder?  Are your pictures better than they were yesterday, last week, and last year?  

Why Not Photoshop World?

By Mark

Usually about this time of the year Roger and I start beating the drum for people to go and attend Photoshop World.  I’ve been 11 straight years and Roger for 10.  This year, we made the difficult decision not to go.  Enrollment is open, and if you haven’t been before and really want to pack a lot of learning into a few days, it is a good place to begin.   We have watched it change over the last few years and this year are going to do something different.  We have watched with concern as the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP) transformed into Kelby Media Group and then into Kelby One.  Scott is a fantastic instructor and author, but the organization really started to shift and be all about Scott, and not about the training.  

This spring, they made a radical shift and terminated all of the Photoshop Guys, who really carried the creative load.  RC Concepcion, Pete Collins, Brad Moore, and Corey Barker, all were let go on the same sad day.   The Original crew of Matt Kloskowski and Dave Cross had already departed.   Some of the best instructors had also stopped attending or announced they were choosing to not come this year.

o what are we going to do instead?   Well one of the things both Roger and I loved about PSW is the chance to get out and shoot things you normally don’t have access to.  Events such as the live model shoot, put on by Westcott, the Precon photo shoots with heroes like Moose Peterson and Joe McNally were the highlights of the week.

Last year, in Vegas we even went out a day early in order to visit the Neon Graveyard museum, just to force ourselves to take the camera out and use it. 

We knew that Bill Fortney, another renowned photographer was holding a seminar in the Great Smoky Mountains in the fall.  What we didn’t know was just how fast it would sell out—our mistake.  Well he leads photographers out into the woods and they shoot at both the dawn’s early light and at twilight’s last gleaming.  They process and critique photos during the day and then start over the next day.  We figured, heck we can do that ourselves.   We are going to head off into the fall woods and try to capture the magic of the changing colors.   

We also are going to do some people photography, but haven’t quite figured out where yet.   For us, it is a matter of just spending a few days concentrating on making better pictures.  After all this time learning Lightroom and Photoshop, what we have discovered over and over again, is that you have to dedicate time to practicing what you have learned or it goes away. 

Happy Veterans Day

By Mark

On the 11th hour of the 11th Day of the 11th month the guns fell silent across Europe marking the end of fighting in WW1.  Today we celebrate that day as Veterans Day, honoring all those who have served.  As a second generation sailor, it is sometime hard to realize that only a small percentage of the population has made the commitment and sacrifices required as part of being in the military.   

 CDR Robert B. Segal, USN--My Dad

CDR Robert B. Segal, USN--My Dad

For many of our parent and grandparent’s generations almost everyone “did a hitch”, or served because of the draft. 

 Bill Altman, USA--Sarah's Dad WWII

Bill Altman, USA--Sarah's Dad WWII

I got to see a lot of sea.  Some of it was very picturesque such as sunset in the Surigao straits in the Philippines.

Some of it much more industrial and less fun; as in the “joys” of living in a shipyard for months of repairs.   

Throughout my career, the one universal constant was the dedication and quality of the young men and women in the service.  Whether they were in for one tour or a full career, each and every one of them learned that there are things more important than self.  Dedication to the mission, the unit and the country were a unifying force. Whether you served in the Navy, the Marine Corps, the Army, the Air Force, or the Coast Guard be proud of what you accomplished.

Today, lots of places are offering “Free” meals or coffee to Vets all across the country.   Most of the Vets have in one way or another already paid a pretty high price through being deployed again and again.  When you thank a Vet for their service, stop and actually talk to them about what they most remember about their time in uniform.

 Ens Segal, USN--1983

Ens Segal, USN--1983

Please also remember that this holiday is about those who served and made it back, while Memorial Day recognizes those who served, but whose lives have ended.


Under the Influence

By Roger (25 May 2015)

Today is Memorial Day. We honor and cherish all those who have given their lives in service of the United States and kept us a free nation. In addition, our deepest and sincerest thanks to those who have served, in any capacity: the veterans, families, and support personnel. We usually do a special blog on this subject, but, since we've done so many commemorative and military-themed blogs lately, I thought I'd stay contemplative, but move to a broader topic related to photography.

 Ft. Clinch, Florida

Ft. Clinch, Florida

Most beginners make photographs of anything that crosses their path when they're holding a camera. This shotgun approach is helpful, at first, because they shoot often and learn lots. As you shoot more, you tend to better identify the subjects you prefer, and, very likely, the subjects you tend to do better with. For photographers who want to go beyond the simple fun of photography, or capturing their family moments, it can be very helpful to go into a little self-analysis to help direct your efforts and get into subjects that will suit you best.

Please note: There is nothing wrong with stopping at the sheer enjoyment phase of photography. There is absolutely no requirement to take it further. Some folks want more and see photography as a pursuit to create art or a business or, sometimes, both; they are compelled to complicate everything. ;-)

When you listen to interviews of veteran photographers, they are, often, asked what influenced them to move in the photographic direction they did. What got them started? How did they choose the area of photography they went into? Who helped them along their way? It is one of the most common questions you hear.

We are all influenced by many things: some common to most of us; some unique and very personal. If you understand what your main influences are, you can better organize your pursuit and move closer, more quickly, to your goal. What influences you?

Probably, the first answer that will come to mind, for those who immerse themselves in this photography thing will be other photographers and artists. We all follow photographers whose work inspires and influences the kind of work we do. It could be their work, their subject matter, or, even a little deeper, their struggles or work ethic. We try to emulate what they have done; see how they see; and learn their techniques for our own use.

I've been into photography for quite a while now, and I have my list of photographers and artists that quickly pop into my head. Some I've met and talked with, and some I've only read about. I enjoy looking at their work. This is the easy answer, but let's go even further.

All of your life has been an influence on the photography you'll make. Your goal here is to make yourself more self-aware of what has shaped you into you – the real you, the one in the mirror, when no one else is around. There are so many variables here that I can't list them all for you. Your life, background, experiences, and desires are likely to be very different from mine. Even if they are similar, your reaction and attitude to them may be very different from mine. Take that personal information and organize it; give extra weight to the things that have influenced you the most and matter the most to you; and decide how you want to translate that to your photography.

Your photographic reaction may be to embrace or totally reject those influences, but you can use this self-awareness to move yourself along in a more useful direction. Many photographers want to go further in their pursuit, but they are overwhelmed by the choices available. Their lack of direction can slow down their progress; instead of choosing, they continue the shotgun approach. The more thoroughly you work through this exercise, the clearer your path will be.

I'm not saying you should forsake all other photography subject, except the one this over-simplified exercise seems to point you towards. I'm saying this over-simplified exercise can help narrow your choices. Here's a simple example: if you don't like bugs, camping, or being alone in the wilderness, you are, probably, not going to be into photographing nature as a primary pursuit. That doesn't mean you won't take any pictures at the zoo or on a safari, but it isn't likely to be your first subject choice. So, don't spend much effort in this direction. See, we've already narrowed the list of photographic topics you need to pursue.

One of the major influences on my photography has been my military life. As a military brat and, then, living through my own military career, I've been moving from city to city and traveling throughout most of my life. I thought it was great. I loved the travel and meeting new people – travel and people are my favorite subjects. Family becomes very important when the world around you is constantly changing, and those are my favorite people subjects.

 Street Musician, Krakow, Poland

Street Musician, Krakow, Poland

So, try to take a serious inventory of the people and things that have influenced you and those that are still active. Think about the type of each influence – environment (past or present); lifestyle; emotions; education; and attitudes toward them. Think of how they may affect your approach to photography and where they may suggest you concentrate your efforts.

Or maybe you think I just spent too much time studying my navel, lately. I had plenty of time to do so, on my latest trip. The photo, below, is Alexander Graham Bell's summer home, where I spent the weekend, without the internet or television. The irony of the situation was not lost on me

 The Bell House, Colonial Beach, Virginia

The Bell House, Colonial Beach, Virginia