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  • Ways not to ruin your photography workshop experience

    I love teaching photography workshops. I get to help others improve their photography. I get to see the world through their eyes. I get to see new and interesting ways to see and photograph the world. I get to go all sorts of interesting places. I even get paid to do all that. Along the way though, I see people make the same mistakes over and over which ruin their workshop experience.

    28

    Dec 16

  • Situational awareness is the key to better photography

    I teach workshops overseas and domestically. I photograph overseas and domestically. In both cases there is one skill that I practice over and over that makes a huge difference when I photograph. It is the one thing that every photographer should master, whether or not they are attending one of my workshop (or anyone else’s.)

    28

    Nov 16

  • My particular choices for video gear

    I am on my way to mastering video as a way of visually telling stories. A student asked about the gear I have chosen to use during that evolution. That question prompted the following answers, which became another blog entry. Keep in mind that MY answers to these questions are unique to my process. Every videographer / photographer solves their problems differently.  With that in mind….

    18

    Jul 16

  • Road Warrior 102 for the photographer (part two of two)

    In the first of this two-part blog posting, I wrote about all the non-gear related things that make my life easier as a photographic road warrior. In this posting I will talk about the gear related technologies that do the same thing for me. On my educational web-site, The Wells Point, I have a podcast showing all of the contents of my traveling camera bag. It is now slightly out of date, since I recently switched to the smaller Olympus Pen cameras, from the larger DSLRs. But the gear that I take with me (besides my cameras and lenses) has not changed at all. You can see exactly what that includes here. The logic behind switching to the smaller Olympus Pen cameras was the subject of a recent blog entry.

    29

    Jun 15

  • Road Warrior 101 for the photographer (part one of two)

    I have been making photographs seriously since 1972, when I fell in love with photography during an intro to photography class in high school.  I have been taking pictures for money since 1980, when I graduated from college after studying the history of photography.  I have been traveling around the globe to make photographs (and to teach classes) since 1986.  In all that time, I have used hundreds of different cameras. Along the way, I have picked up a few things that have become constants in my tool kit as a photographer.  They are part of my process, regardless of where I go, who I am working for, or what gear I am working with.

    15

    Jun 15

  • Critiquing 101

    The very best way to improve as a photographer does not involve any particular piece of gear or course of study, nor does it involve apprenticing yourself to a master photographer. Impoverishing yourself by working on nothing but photography as something of a photographic “monk” will not do it, either. While all of these things may improve your photography, the best way is much simpler, yet for many photographers it seems much harder.

    31

    May 15

  • Travel Selfies

    I was flattered to be interviewed recently by a writer for the Washington Post for an article on “Travel Selfies.” For those of us of a certain age, who need a translation, that mean self-portraits made while traveling. These photos. at their best, both the traveler and the destination they traveled to. The conversation I had with the writer was fascinating and I took it as an opportunity to turn some time well spent into a blog entry.

    05

    Sep 14

  • Zen and the Art of Photography Maintenance

    I started riding motorcycles before I even took up photography, way back in 1972. Both riding and photographing require a lot of practice to achieve mastery. Both pursuits can be rewarding (or frustrating) as that expertise develops (or fails to.) Both involve complex technology with numerous opportunities to spend more and more money. Both are frequently enjoyed outside. Both involve disciplined vision and constant awareness of your surrounding environment. Thankfully, in only one pursuit can a mistake result in injury or even worse—death. While I was riding recently, I was reminded of what is arguably the most important similarity between the two, at least in the eyes of a photographer.

    22

    Aug 14

  • Video Hardware That Works For Me

    I recently blogged about the software that I use when making my narrative videos. Here, I will be talking about the hardware, the cameras, lenses, microphones, recorders, tripods, etc., that I use. My technology choices (whether hardware or software) are very specific to my process, my workflow and my budget. The gear I use solves my unique set of problems and nothing more. Every person making videos should ask themselves, does the gear I have (or the gear I am considering) solve my problems?

    25

    Apr 14

  • Lighting Workshop with Victor Rodriguez, Jr.

    In November of 2013, I took part in a lighting Workshop with Olympus Trailblazer, portrait and fashion photographer Victor Rodriguez, Jr., at the ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks in Bethlehem, PA. During the three hour workshop, I gathered video clips, which I then made into this short, three minute video.

    24

    Nov 13

  • More Table-top Tripod Tales

    For the last two weeks of December of 2010 and most of January of 2011, I was on the road for work, fun and family reasons. I learned a few new things—and reconfirmed a few old ones—while I worked in different parts of India and Vietnam, and spent some time in Singapore. Always the teacher, I was watching my own photographing process to see if there were any lessons worth sharing. One thing struck me as a potentially interesting lesson for any serious photographer.

    25

    Oct 13

  • How a liberal arts education saved my career again and again

    College graduation season is upon us and with it discussions about the importance of educating young people for the so called “jobs of the future.”  With a daughter half way through college, I have plenty to worry about in terms of her future. Yet I am here to make a last stand for a liberal arts education, the one thing that has saved my career again and again.

    07

    Jun 13

  • Artfully road testing the Olympus Tough TG-2 camera

    While I was experimenting with the Olympus Tough TG-2 I went a bit overboard in trying to see just how far I have moved past my previous concern in terms of “fearing for the camera’s safety.” What happened was I dreamed up the idea of videos made from weird angles via a rig I would make, putting the camera near the ground to show what it feels like to be riding my motorcycle, a Suzuki C-50, an 800cc Cruiser. In the end it all worked out fine but in between, I definitely had a few of those “do not try this at home” moments.

    29

    May 13

  • Copyright workflow of one professional photographer (me)

    Registering your photographs with the Library of Congress is THE most important thing any photographer can do to protect their intellectual property (their photographs.) While it is not a difficult process, it can be tedious. In this podcast, I walk you through my copyright registration process, in great detail.

    29

    Apr 13

  • Connoisseur of Light in Singapore

    I am just back from Singapore, having spent three weeks there on my annual visit, teaching and photographing. Every year, I teach a couple sections of my favorite class, Light, Shadow Night and Twilight. And every year, at least half the class starts out complaining about how there is no dramatic light in Singapore. Because Singapore is almost on the equator and has pretty high humidity, there is no question the light certainly is different. This year, I paid a lot of attention to that light and especially to how I dealt with its peculiarities, for another in my blog entry in my Connoisseur of Light series.

    15

    Mar 13

  • Some good questions

    A high school photography teacher wrote me recently with some questions. As part of her ongoing credentialing for teaching photography, she needed to “…gather information/advice from those in professional photography community.” She went on to ask me a series of great questions from her students drawing on having asked them “What questions they would ask a professional if they could.”

    17

    Feb 12

  • The future of photography is women

    Among the classes that I taught while I was recently in Singapore, at the behest of Objectifs – Centre for Photography and Filmmaking, was a class on street photography. At the first meeting, I scanned the room like I always do. I saw Singaporeans of all ethnicities, a few Europeans and two people from India. What I did not see among the many eager faces were any men. The class went really well with only women and it set me to thinking about how, I could argue, the future of photography is women.

    03

    Feb 12

  • The best college for photographers

    My daughter is about to start her fresh-man (fresh-person?) orientation at college. This “momentous” occasion prompted me to think about college in general, as well as my own experience in college. Finally that led me to this blog entry, considering which is the “best” college for photographers.

    19

    Aug 11

  • Witnesses by choice

    Last week, the news of the deaths of two photojournalists, Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros raced around the world of photojournalism (and the larger media world.) I read the various pieces and mostly I was saddened by the loss. I grieve for their families, for our profession and for our world as a whole. During a presentation I gave Thursday night, I paused and asked the audience to remember the two photographers. As I was reading the various articles on their deaths, one thing caught my attention and it may be nitpicking but I think it is important. The two are frequently described as having died “in the line of duty.” They were not under any obligation to be there. It was not part of any military term or enlistment they had made. They were there by choice. That in no way negates what they were doing, or the tragedy of their deaths, but they put themselves in harm’s way by choice.

    29

    Apr 11

  • Blazing a new path in your photography education

    For me, blogging, like life, is most interesting when seemingly disparate things come together in unusual and thought provoking ways. A recent series of events got me thinking about photography workshops in particular and photography education in general. Since I studied the history of photography, work as a photographer, and teach a fair number of workshops, this is not new territory for me. What is new is where my thinking ended up at the end of the mental twists and turns that I recently went through.

    22

    Apr 11

  • What’s in a name

    I am in California, working on my project “Foreclosed Dreams,” where I have been photographing inside foreclosed houses. I am also teaching a series of classes. I am spending a lot of time on my new MacBook Air, running my photography business from the road. In between all this, I am working on building Photo Synesi ( http://photosynesi.com ), a new on-line critiquing system that connects serious photographers around the world. Through Photo Synesi, we help aspiring photographers get better through personalized feedback of their work. The title of one of the projects that was recently reviewed caught my eye because it perfectly described what we try to do.

    01

    Apr 11

  • Surviving and Thriving as a Professional Photographer

    In last week’s blog explored how I came understand and even embrace a couple guiding ideas about making a living as a photographer. The first of those is to accept (or even ideally embrace) the fact that what I do as a professional photographer exists within an ever changing, constantly shifting framework. Change is a constant and so I simply have to accept that. The second insight is that, for me, institutional affiliations, external validations of my skills and conventional certifications are not that much use in my own photography. That works for me. It may not be the same for other. With those two ideas in mind, this week I will offer some thinking points for any professional photographer (or professional photographer in the making) who is looking at the current business of photography and asking themselves, where can I fit in?

    11

    Mar 11

  • Should I become a Certified Professional Photographer

    I have worked in and around photography almost my entire working life. I took a few short detours away from my beloved medium, but those went nowhere fast. A recent email prompted me to look back over my career for insights to share with the photographer who wrote me. Looking back, I noted two important trends, lessons I wish I knew way back when I was starting out, but I did not. I am heartened by the thought that at least I can explore and explain those ideas now, for others to learn from.

    04

    Mar 11

  • Sharing photo essay ideas

    I just finished teaching a series of photography workshops in Asia, including my favorite photo-essay class. In that workshop, students initially practice the skills required for a long-term photo-essay AND then they start working on the project of their choosing. I show them how the hardest part of a good essay is defining the project. I was reminded in Singapore how a good workshop group, one that is willing to share ideas, can make that process of defining a project much easier. Just as this was happening, I was also having an e-mail exchange with an American photographer, who seemed concerned about keeping his project idea to himself. I am still trying to figure out if the diverging thinking on sharing ideas was an aberration, or if it tells us something about the difference between Singaporean and American mindsets.

    13

    Jan 11

  • Thinking about photography’s “constants”

    I read a number of on-line forums every day. My morning reading, which once was largely a leisurely enjoyment of the New York Times, now entails scanning the eight forums I read daily to see what items of interest are percolating through the world of photography. I rarely post on most forums, since I am not sure I have much to offer that hasn’t already been said. I recently posted on a forum and the thread that resulted taught me a lot about the state of contemporary professional photography.

    07

    Jan 11

  • Introducing Photo Synesi!

    Photography has been one of the constants in my life since I fell in love with the medium back in high school.  In the nearly forty years since then, I have been continually experimenting with different ways to both photograph just the way I want while making a living at it.  Along the way, I have worked selling cameras, done portraiture, weddings, studio work, fine-art photography, university teaching, etc. Of course, I have also done a lot of the editorial photography that has sustained me for the last decade.  During the last couple years I have finally come to appreciate the upside of what once looked like an helter-skelter, ever-changing career path.  

    27

    Nov 10

  • A refresher course in low light photography

    I am finishing up teaching a workshop in street photography at the Maine Media Workshops this week. As I have for the last decade or so, I am enjoying the students and the community that come together at the workshops. The place has an incredible energy and sharing that can only be experienced in person. In the spirit of that, I am blogging in response to a student’s recent question.

    27

    Aug 10

  • War stories, part two

    In the first part of this series of blog entries, I wrote about recent ethics controversies spurred by student photographers going to places like Haiti in order to develop their skills and their portfolios, as they photograph the horror of that nation’s earthquake/disaster. I appreciate the ethical issues raised by such actions, but my overarching question was, and still is, how do aspiring conflict photographers develop the skills required for covering war/disaster? In this blog entry, I will talk about how I developed my own, limited skills in that area of photojournalism and what I learned in the process of gaining those skills.

    16

    Jul 10

  • War stories, part one

    For the last few months I have been carrying around a copy of a commentary written by the National Geographic photographer, turned university professor, Steve Raymer. It appeared in the March, 2010 issue of the magazine, News Photographer (which is published by the National Press Photographer’s Association.) He talks about the photography of Haiti’s earthquake/disaster as well as the ethics of students going to places like Haiti in an attempt to develop their portfolios as they photograph that horror. All of this, and last week’s “bandh,” here in India, prompted me to tease out some of my own “war stories” and put them down in type.

    12

    Jul 10

  • Gear and old gear

    My last blog entry, exploring gear and goals left me thinking about my own gear acquisition history. I have written before about how, these days, I tend to be slow to adopt new gear. I only displace technology that works well for me if the newer technology is a notable improvement. (DSLRs that capture video are one example of a notable technology shift.) I will be first to admit this was not always the case. In college and during my first few years as a freelancer, I churned through different sets of gear. I was trying to figure out who I was as a photographer (and which technology would help me make the photographs I wanted to make.) In looking back, I have noted that certain pieces of gear have stayed with me throughout over my career, including some that have been with me a very long time.

    14

    Jun 10

  • Goals and gear

    A friend wrote me with a variation of the most common question I am asked, “What gear should I buy next?” In a technology-based pursuit like photography, the question appears to make sense. This is doubly so in a creative pursuit which is largely shared through advertising driven media. Before I answered him, I grilled him with a few more questions. Then I came back to him with a suggestion for the one thing that every photographer should be spending more time and money on, especially these days.

    11

    Jun 10

  • Pictures, purges and process (part one)

    I recently wound up a series of blog entries exploring my experiences with and thoughts about technology. The non-technological process of spring-cleaning prompted all of these posts. In the process of that cleaning (or more accurately my massive archival purge,) I looked at thousands and thousands of my old images. Some scared me, some impressed me and some surprised me. Though it was not my intention, it turned out to be a great way to consider the arc of my evolution, as a photographer and as a professional.

    30

    Apr 10

  • Out of the eyes of babes

    About a month ago, my teenage daughter saw the new, sleek Olympus camera (the E-P1) that I have been using lately. She said she wanted to try it out. I was not sure if she was motivated by purely adolescent curiosity or her generation’s obsession with the newest, latest thing. I do know that although she spent her childhood in front of my camera being photographed for fun and work, she never has shown much interest in being behind the camera. Watching her use the new camera and then looking at the work she made set me to thinking (and blogging.)

    05

    Apr 10

  • Seasons for motorcycle riding (and photographing)

    With the arrival of November and the seriously cold weather, I just put my motorcycle away for the season. The way I was taught to “winterize” my bike involves a series of steps; changing the oil/filter, filling the gas tank and then chemically treating that new fuel. The last step involves partly disassembling the motorcycle in order to remove the battery, which comes inside with me for the winter. At the end, I look back with a bit of sadness at my pride and joy because she is splayed in pieces across the garage, as I pull the garage door shut. The whole process is slow, precise and requires a certain methodology. At the same time, it also marks the change of seasons for me.

    13

    Nov 09

  • Golfers, psychotherapists and photographers

    The legendary golfer, Jack Nicklaus is supposed to have said: “Golf is 90% mental.” So, you are asking yourself, what does golf (a sport I normally have no interest in) have to do with photography, the pursuit that I love? More than I ever thought, actually.

    12

    Oct 09

  • A lesson in seeing and working a situation

    This podcast explores the many different ways you can photograph one subject

    07

    Oct 09

  • What can the assistant bring to the photographer?

    When I wrote the recent post on “Group questions versus individual questions,” I was obviously writing about that topic. But, I was also using the process of writing to clarify my own thinking on that subject. As I started to answer a query from a student in the Fotovision class that I just finished in California, I ended up similarly clarifying my own thinking on another topic.

    25

    Sep 09

  • The keys to good street photography

    I will soon be heading north to teach a class in “Street Photography” at the Maine Media Workshops. I was organizing my lessons, assignments and the images I will show the class, when a photographer who wanted to attend but could not, wrote me with some questions. I realized that answering his questions would help him grow AND help me improve the class I am about to teach.

    10

    Aug 09

  • “Working” a situation when photographing

    This podcast explores the important process “working” a situation, making a variety of images of a given subject, by changing the photographer’s position, the camera’s orientation, the focal length of the lens, etc.

    03

    Jun 09

  • Top ten keys to be a successful photojournalist (Part two)

    I just wound up an interesting assignment in California.  I wrote the first half of this two-part blog entry right after the first day of the project.  Now that I have finished and I am writing the second half of the entry, certain points I wanted to share are even clearer to me than when I started.

    04

    May 09

  • Top ten keys to be a successful photojournalist (Part one)

    I am starting an interesting assignment in California.  So far, it has been a lot of fun, but it has also been a great deal of hard work. To be honest, because I do not work on as many assignments as I once did, I was worried I would be rusty.  In fact it has been quite the opposite. All the skills I developed over the decades that I was doing assignment work came back to me easily, a bit like riding a bicycle (or motorcycle.) Thinking about them led me to writing them down as a blog post.

    01

    May 09

  • One photographer’s career path

    This podcast explores my career path, from student photographer to established professional. As I tell my story, I show photographs from the many phases of my career.

    28

    Jan 09

  • Photographs as mirrors and windows

    I often tell my students that their best photographs are the ones that reflect their personalities, life experiences and outlooks.  I was recently giving a presentation, when an audience member’s question stopped me cold and forced me to articulate how that same idea has played out in my own work.

    26

    Jan 09

  • How I learned to critique photographs

    I was reviewing another photographer’s work recently. Left and right, I was tossing off suggestions for improving the images. Though I was thinking intensely about the work, I was largely unaware of my own process, as I critiqued the work. When she asked me how I had learned to critique images so fluidly, I was stopped in my tracks.

    19

    Jan 09

  • Where I learned the most about photographing

    I recently realized that if I carefully look at my career as a photographer, I can pinpoint where I learned the most about the act of photographing.  It was not in high school, where I learned the craft of photography.  Nor was it in college, where my study of the history of photography taught me about the art of photography.  It was in a different place, one that I fear is fast disappearing from the photographic landscape.

    16

    Jan 09