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  • It Begins Here

    I am often irritated by authors who write countless paragraphs instead of getting directly to the point; it is as if they are more interested in proving they can write than actually conveying their message. I wish they would begin with their main statement so I can read it and move on with my life. If there is something valuable to say, say it right away; do not beat around the bush or waste my time. Welcome to my journal. It is about me, photography, how I create art, how I see, my methods, how I learn from my mistakes and much more. I do not profess to know everything, in fact, I only know myself or how I do things and that is often questionable ;) I hope you enjoy reading my posts; I promise to respect your time with brief, simple and to the point articles. If something herein changes your perspective or helps you become more creative then I have achieved my goal; however, the primary take away should be to explore your own artistic style, discover the world on your own terms, not be fenced in by the restrictions of others and do not let someone’s experiences be yours. It is best to travel your own path and risk failure than to follow in someone else's shadow. We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world. – The Dhammapada When it comes to making my photographs, there is no light, no sky, no mountain, no rain and no wind. The only thing that exists is the image in my mind.

  • Now You Can Blog from Everywhere!

    We’ve made it quick and convenient for you to manage your blog from anywhere. In this blog post we’ll share the ways you can post to your Wix Blog. Blogging from Your Wix Blog Dashboard On the dashboard, you have everything you need to manage your blog in one place. You can create new posts, set categories and more. To head to your Dashboard, open the Wix Editor and click on Blog > Posts. Blogging from Your Published Site Did you know that you can blog right from your published website? After you publish your site, go to your website’s URL and login with your Wix account. There you can write and edit posts, manage comments, pin posts and more! Just click on the 3 dot icon ( ⠇) to see all the things you can do. #bloggingtips #WixBlog

  • Grow Your Blog Community

    With Wix Blog, you’re not only sharing your voice with the world, you can also grow an active online community. That’s why the Wix blog comes with a built-in members area - so that readers can easily sign easily up to become members of your blog. What can members do? Members can follow each other, write and reply to comments and receive blog notifications. Each member gets their own personal profile page that they can customize. Tip: You can make any member of your blog a writer so they can write posts for your blog. Adding multiple writers is a great way to grow your content and keep it fresh and diversified. Here’s how to do it: Head to your Member’s Page Search for the member you want to make a writer Click on the member’s profile Click the 3 dot icon ( ⠇) on the Follow button Select Set as Writer

  • Design a Stunning Blog

    When it comes to design, the Wix blog has everything you need to create beautiful posts that will grab your reader's attention. Check out our essential design features. Choose from 8 stunning layouts Your Wix Blog comes with 8 beautiful layouts. From your blog's settings, choose the layout that’s right for you. For example, a tiled layout is popular for helping visitors discover more posts that interest them. Or, choose a classic single column layout that lets readers scroll down and see your post topics one by one. Every layout comes with the latest social features built in. Readers can easily share posts on social networks like Facebook and Twitter and view how many people have liked a post, made comments and more. Add media to your posts When creating your posts you can: Upload images or GIFs Embed videos and music Create galleries to showcase a media collection Customize the look of your media by making it widescreen or small and easily align media inside your posts. Hashtag your posts Love to #hashtag? Good news! You can add tags (#vacation #dream #summer) throughout your posts to reach more people. Why hashtag? People can use your hashtags to search through content on your blog and find the content that matters to them. So go ahead and #hashtag away!

  • Social Media

    I joined Facebook in 2010 and rapidly acquired over 7,000 followers. Back then, Followers were free and no one was aware of the addictive nature, the dopamine hit, of Likes. Immediate feedback on new photographs was encouraging and exciting. However, within a short time, I found myself stressing over the next photograph; it had to perform better than the previous i.e., get more Likes. The pressure to post incredible photographs, when most were meh, gave me anxiety; it increasingly became all about the Likes. Rewind a decade or two: I was fortunate to have begun photography with film; waiting days or weeks for film to be developed was part of the process. I did not have an LCD on the camera, therefore, I had to make it right using the viewfinder. If an image was meh, the world never knew it existed. Likes had not yet been invented; there was no digital Cloud for sharing images. Contrast my humble beginnings with photography today and it is plain to see it is now a worldwide collaborative effort, with nearly instant feedback, whether it be from a peasant in Sri Lanka, a mom in Arizona, a programmer in Istanbul, an autonomous bot or from a colleague five thousand miles away viewing new photographs saved on the Cloud. Clearly, photography has made an enormous leap! This leap, due to advances in technology, particularly the cell phone, along with social media, led to an explosion of incredible photography, a perpetual race to post photographs for more Likes and heralded the end of steady learning at a slower and calmer pace. The leap was both positive and negative. I often post articles and photos on social media (and I will do so with this article). Sharing knowledge and experiences with others is the modern Zeitgeist. However, it is no longer 2010. Today, posts are heavily monetized, real and wannabe influencers compete for nanoseconds of attention; swiping has replaced reading. Further to this, when I post an image on Facebook, I am prompted to pay $10 to reach 826 people; if I do not submit payment, my post is severally throttled. Instagram is less useful than Facebook because it is impossible to have a clickable link on each post, in other words, viewers cannot easily get to my website unless they hunt for my bio page. Therefore, I seldom post on Instagram. I respect social media’s right to charge; it is no different than purchasing ads to drive customers to my gallery exhibition or art show. Plus, social media is awash with incredible photography; it is an enormous sea of fish and paying for visibility is a neutral way to determine prominence. Decades ago, the yellow pages worked similarly, businesses paid for a large advertisement to increase their chances of being seen and I cannot imagine an alternative. Alternatively, some photographers acquired a substantial following by performing work for an already famous individual or brand and tagging their name to every post. Social media's nature is social and I spend time nearly every day Liking art posts from other artists or organizations. Interacting with others is crucial to spreading my name, it is how the algorithm works!

  • Fine Art Prints

    All of the fine art prints I sell are handcrafted by me, I do not use a print lab and nothing is outsourced. Each photograph is hand signed and stamped by me personally. Each print is unique – one of a kind – I neither mass produce artwork nor inflate value by numbering or creating limited editions. I guarantee the excellence of my artwork by using museum-grade fine art archival paper with certified life permanence exceeding 100 years. To further extend the longevity and protect the value of my artwork (when not framed behind glass), I seal prints with a special museum grade archival varnish, a process I developed over the years. Authenticity is extremely important. I have learned from accomplished artists how to prepare and present artwork for buyers and collectors and have been fortunate to have experienced the importance of reputation and value from gallery owners. When I handcrafted my aluminum photographs, I knew I could save myself headaches by sending my high-resolution digital files to a print shop. However, the resultant product would be machine made and hold less of a value to the collector. I believe handmade artwork, pieces made by the artist, are far more precious than those created by a lowly paid machine operator in a store or factory that mass produces thousands at a time. When a client purchases one of my photographs, I have an obligation to deliver the best of my efforts. Anything less is not appropriate.

  • Making a Photograph

    People often ask, “How did you make this photograph?” There is no short answer, no secret recipe; I genuinely wish I could say, I did A, B then C and voila, photograph! To provide a truly helpful answer, I need to know where to begin, how far back should I go? Should I explain what I did after I attached the camera to the tripod? Or, should I begin with how and why I decided to visit the location where I made the photograph? The latter makes more sense; fast-forwarding to the moment I opened the camera’s shutter does not truly answer the question. First step, select the location. I use online maps such as Google or Bing (before the web I used paper maps). I look for a variety of elements; I do not select parks or curated locations designed by city-planners for public use. I prefer locations that do not have many homes or private land. Lakes or the shoreline offer wonderful opportunities, as do forests. I avoid areas that are restricted; housing developments are often private and I obey the rules, I do not trespass. When I find an area of interest on the map, I switch to Satellite view and check out buildings, the type of road (paved or dirt), boundary markers, safety concerns and more. Google is terrific; on the bottom of the map there is an option to display photos of the area. Second step, select when to go and do research. I use natural lighting and I must be aware of where the sun will be, what areas might be in shadow and the nature of the light, whether it will be a reddish sunset or a bright sunrise with intermittent clouds. I am not discouraged by rain or inclement weather; some of my best work has been created in light from overcast skies or during dramatic weather. If it is the shore, I track the tide. I also research the region, find out what is nearby or where will I stay if it is far from home. Third step, visit the location and walk around. I do not touch my camera until I know what I want to create. I consider a multitude of ideas and options; I process them mentally until something sparks my interest. Sometimes nothing comes to mind and I must return at another time; if there is no spark, it may be futile to force creativity (this is not an absolute). Often, I decide to revisit the location when the light is different i.e. dawn or sunset. Different lighting can trigger new ideas. However, when an idea or vision comes to mind, I get to the next step. Step four, translate the vision in my mind to film or digital. This involves deciding many things; where to set up my tripod, which lens, filter, perspective, slow or fast shutter speed, depth of field and more. Is the mental image wide or narrow? How much of the landscape does it include? Will I need a wide-angle lens or do I want to isolate a tiny aspect? At this step, my creativity switches to autopilot mode; I stare through the viewfinder, compare it, or the LCD, to my original mental image. Are they far apart? Any new ideas come to mind? My creative process is like other artforms such as writing or painting; ask a painter why he made a specific brush stroke and he will tell you it came naturally. Once I enter the creative zone, I am unaware of the time or anything else other than making the artwork. In addition to the equipment, proper clothing is important. Some photographs require getting into the water while others occur in wet, cold or hot conditions. I have made my share of mistakes that have nearly left me stranded. On the rare occasion I have come close to injuring myself because I was not prepared. While making the photograph is my primary goal, returning safely is a crucial element in the endeavor. Safety first. Sometimes my mental image requires an impossible perspective i.e. a vantage point I cannot reach. If I must hike, I select the bag or backpack that is appropriate for what I must carry. I often limit myself to two or three lenses (I have only one zoom lens and I primarily use it in wet, windy or sandy conditions). I have different tripods for different conditions (i.e. I have a tripod with sealed legs that works well in water). Many of my photographs were made with filters in front of the lens. The most common are graduated neutral density filters (ND Grads) which darken only one portion of the frame. I also use filters to darken an entire frame to slow the shutter speed. I stack filters too. Some photographs cannot be made without filters because the difference between light and dark is too great in a single frame. In the alternative, multiple exposures can be blended in the computer later on; personally, I do not like to make corrections post-op which can be made in the landscape. Every post-op adjustment degrades an image. Occasionally, nature cannot be tamed and I am forced to accept that certain elements may not adhere to my original vision. Most of the time my original thought serves as the spark that ignites other ideas. I often remain well past sunset and see different colors in the sky. There are countless decisions in the process; each one leads me down an avenue where more choices exist. Fifth step, before packing gear away, make sure there are no silly mistakes with focus, lighting and I always verify the camera is level (no photographs with the sea draining off to one side!). Countless times I have returned home, waited for the film to be developed (or looked through the digital images) and discovered a mistake that ruined the photograph. Numerous times I returned to a location to redo a photograph only to discover the conditions were different than the original moment or the landscape mood was not the same. It is far easier to check the viewfinder or LCD multiple times than to return, especially if an arduous hike was required. As mentioned previously, while making a photograph, I pay attention to issues that may need to be fixed in the computer and I resolve them in the landscape. The mistakes I have made in the past have taught me what to look for or not to do. Mistakes are important; welcome them! Final step, print the photographs. Check out how they look on paper. There is a difference between computer screen and paper, the former emits light, the latter reflects light. Matching a print to a screen image can require software adjustments; it is a talent in its own right! I may have described the physical steps of making a photograph, however, the artistic steps are far more elusive. During the process of creativity, I make countless decisions rapidly because they feel right. Nonetheless, for me, fine art photography begins with these steps.

  • The Problem with Cameras

    Cameras are technical devices and, to a significant degree, can be configured to work in automatic mode with little input from a user, except perhaps, pointing it in a specific direction and pressing the shutter release; however, these too can be automated. It is this sophisticated engineering, mechanics, software and automation that makes it difficult for viewers to notice or appreciate decisions by the artist and accept the resultant image as authentic artwork. Fine art photographers have an uphill battle defining their role in the creation of their artwork; even the esteemed Ayn Rand was ill informed regarding photography as art. From The Romantic Manifesto, Ayn Rand states: A certain type of confusion about the relationship between scientific discoveries and art, leads to a frequently asked question: Is photography an art? The answer is: No. It is a technical, not a creative, skill. Art requires a selective re-creation. A camera cannot perform the basic task of painting: a visual conceptualization, i.e., the creation of a concrete in terms of abstract essentials. The selection of camera angles, lighting or lenses is merely a selection of the means to reproduce various aspects of the given, i.e., of an existing concrete. There is an artistic element in some photographs, which is the result of such selectivity as the photographer can exercise, and some of them can be very beautiful—but the same artistic element (purposeful selectivity) is present in many utilitarian products: in the better kinds of furniture, dress design, automobiles, packaging, etc. The commercial art work [sic] in ads (or posters or postage stamps) is frequently done by real artists and has greater esthetic value than many paintings, but utilitarian objects cannot be classified as works of art. Ayn Rand’s opinion on artwork versus technical creation is valid and many photographic disciplines pursue perfection in documenting how a subject appeared at a moment in time with disdain for any injection of creativity or opinion by the camera operator. The notion of the camera as a tool used to document an event, for instance, as used by a newspaper photographer, is widely accepted. Ms. Rand’s deeper point, that a painter must conceptualize prior to painting (because the canvas is blank) is termed previsualization in photography i.e., the photographer deciding what and how to photograph from his or her mental vision; previsualization is conceptualization. The assertion a camera is limited to angles, lighting or lenses conveniently overlooks the role of the photographer. Cameras do not decide what to photograph; it is purely a function of the human mind envisioning an image and then using a tool to create it. The mental image may arise from the landscape in front of the photographer, spring from a childhood memory, spark from emotion and so on. If photography were limited to merely angles, lenses, lighting, then there would be a finite potential, and, to the contrary, photographic creativity surprises time and again. Humans use tools to create. A sophisticated tool, such as a camera, does not make its resultant creation any less creative; any statement to the contrary is ill informed. I further posit that many painters (all painters that I know) work from a photograph and their artwork is no less authentically artistic because they painted from a photograph. This fact presents an interesting conundrum for Ayn Rand; if a painter paints from a photograph, is the painting a “copy” of a photograph? Were Ayn Rand alive, I imagine her dismissing me (a devotee) and ending the conversation out of frustration, as she often did when challenged with facts she could not refute. Photographer Galen Rowell’s Inner Game of Outdoor Photography hammers home the fact that photography is art and I highly recommend it for any serious fine art photographer. Photographers are often considered stepchildren in the artworld. Besides seething jealousy of unaccomplished painters, who feel threatened by photographic clarity or the ability to rapidly reproduce a photograph in either the chemical darkroom or digitally, rareness and collectability are also very different for photographs than for a painting or sculpture. I have not even mentioned Photoshop and how software further complicates photography because some shun adjustments to photographs; every photograph is edited before the final version. As a fine art photographer, I must work harder at being creative because the camera can do so much on its own.

  • Elements

    I often break apart the elements that I see in the landscape, I mentally substitute each for another object; doing so helps me see. For instance, frequently I view clouds as cotton, a large expanse of green, such as a field, as the sea, trees and leaves as heads in a crowd, autumn colors as crayons, water as glass unless it is wavy and if it’s wavy, what juts out as hair and so forth. I also notice the wind i.e., movement of the elements; often I accept movement as a crucial element. The same applies to rain, mist or fog. The substitutions change based on what comes to mind, this is not scientific; each landscape begins with a reboot of my imagination and the ideas are always different. Viewing each element independently allows me to consider a dynamic perspective towards each, as opposed to choosing a perspective of the entire collection of landscape elements. Every so often I will be drawn to one element over another. Dividing up the landscape helps me choose my primary subject, its placement in relation to all of the other elements and what to exclude or accentuate. I do not accept the landscape as it presents itself upon first sight. By mentally cataloging landscape elements, I can decide how I feel about them individually and where each should go; I creatively consider element relationships with one another and this helps me previsualize my ultimate photograph.

  • Layers

    From time to time, while staring into the viewfinder, I notice distinctive layers in the landscape and strive to accentuate them. Sometimes the layers are truly there, other times they are merely an aspect of perspective. Perspective is a creativity tool; I think of it as if it were another dial on the camera, for instance, turn it to make something appear higher or lower. An obvious example is my photograph Storm Tide. In the above photograph, I am standing on the shore; the sea is not actually higher than the pilings or the beach, however, it appears almost as if the waves are a looming tidal wave. Another example is Calm Dusk, which I made while standing on a cliff. Below is a snapshot of my camera set up on the cliff for Calm Dusk. It is obvious the horizon appears higher than the cliff with my tripod. However, sea level is always lower than a cliff (can a cliff’s edge ever be lower than sea level? Probably, but that's not the point.). One more example, Dusk Rivulet below, the outbound tide stream flowing to the sea is beneath sea level in my photograph, however, it is really on the same level. Where I decide to place layers effects the aspect for the viewer. Layer placement can make a photograph more or less dramatic. By placing the horizon at the top or bottom of a photograph, as opposed to the middle, tells the viewer, this is how I want you to see the landscape. Accentuating sky or land via placement emphasizes its importance. Likewise, placing the horizon in the center of an image lets the viewer decide which half is more important to them. As the artist, everything it is up to me; if the viewer is captivated by my photograph then I have succeeded.

  • Creative Block

    Sometimes I have periods of lackluster or limited creativity; authors call it writer’s block. It is quite frustrating to lose the ability to create new work and it often leads to a downward spiral of aggravation, doubt and pressure. It is always a challenge to dislodge myself from the malaise; I cannot force creativity no matter how hard I try. Fortunately, over the years, I have developed a few techniques that have helped me. One way to move past a creative block is to get out into the landscape and produce something, even if it is meaningless or below my standards; it gets the garbage out of the system. Sometimes I must clear the out the junk before quality can flow freely again. Once the bad photographs are flushed, the next photograph will be spectacular; I have experienced this time and again and I believe the process is similar in other creative pursuits. My mind cannot produce engaging art all the time, it is a machine like any other and requires downtime. I also try to understand or dislodge whatever is blocking me; if I am worried about something or thinking about other pressing matters then my mind is not free to be imaginative. For example, if I got a flat tire while travelling and working in the landscape, my mind would be focused on fixing the flat, not on creating new photographs. Some things are unavoidable and I do not get upset if I am preoccupied; I trust myself, if I am spending mental energy on something then it must be important. When I am devoid of creativity, I remind myself that the photograph does not make itself; photographs come from within me and are created through my efforts. Of course, the landscape has a myriad of perspectives and creative aspects, however, it is up to me to see them; if I do not observe them, then they do not exist. Seeing is not done with my eyes; my eyes merely collect light and transfer the information to my brain. My mind either ignores the input or focuses on what catches its attention. It is also important to look at what I am producing during a creative block. What are the photographs of? Is there a common theme? Do the uninspiring images say something about what is going on inside of me? What are they a reflection of? Are the photographs decent, however, I do not like them? Asking these questions gives me a glimpse into myself. Sometimes I just need to step away and take a break; there are other forms of creativity – I enjoy writing for example – that may not be blocked. Alternative creative pursuits can ignite new ideas. Revisiting a spark that launched previous bursts of creativity may help too, however, in my experience, they can be elusive; I prefer not to relive the past or duplicate successful photographs; I prefer moving forward. Creative blocks are difficult to overcome; I put a lot of pressure on myself and by doing so, I often make things worse. To ease the tension, it helps to forgive myself and accept that I need to be where I am to get to where I am going.

  • Fill the Viewfinder!

    Did you ever look at one of your photographs and feel it was not what you originally saw? When I am in the landscape, working on a photograph, I can spend as long as forty-five minutes looking through the viewfinder on a single image. I spend the time to make sure the photograph is how I want it and so I do not need to edit it when I am back at my computer. My goal, while in the field, is to create as close to a final version of the photograph at time of exposure. This includes filling the viewfinder with as much or as little as I want so I do not need to crop later. I do not like cropping photographs; the loss of resolution bothers me and I feel like I made a mistake. Therefore, while making the photograph, I crop out the unnecessary i.e. undesired empty space, open regions or areas that do not add to my photograph (or detract from my subject); I remove anything that clutters the image. When I exclude unnecessary elements, the ultimate viewer’s eyes will not wander and he or she will be more engaged with my photograph. Filling the viewfinder can be done by controlling the perspective, selecting the correct lens or changing the distance to your subject. Perspective is the position to your subject, not just distance; it is angle too. A zoom lens may be helpful, especially in inclement weather; with a prime lens, get closer, if possible, to fill the viewfinder with your photograph. I prefer cameras that have as close to 100% viewfinder coverage as possible. Coverage means, what I see in the viewfinder is what will be exposed to the film or sensor when I make the exposure. Cameras with less than 100% viewfinder coverage will have more on the top, bottom and sides of the resultant photo; this may change the perspective. When I look at my photographs, I want my subject to be how I decided it should be, I expect to see my decisions. Often, after I make an exposure, I use a loupe on my camera’s digital LCD and study the photograph to make sure it matches what I want. I check the perspective, light and dark areas, the edges, corners, center and more. As the artist, I make every decision, nothing should be decided by the camera.

  • Do Not Xerox

    I push myself to make photographs of what I see in my mind; I often avoid the typical photo that other photographers have made. I refrain from the mundane or boring image that I have seen countless times before – the lonely rock, the winding brook, the tall mountain, the gnarly tree, and so on. Yes, I do make such photographs too, however, I get them out of my system and sincerely try to hide them from my audience; I do not want to bore you. Further disclosure: there was a time in my early career when that was all I did, I photographed everything that was in front of me. I would return from a photography trip with hundreds of rolls of film and look for that one special image. It was the machine gun approach: shoot as many frames as possible, I was bound to hit something. Over time I began to realize that if I ever wanted to be more than a landscape Xerox machine, I had to bring my A-Game to creativity; I had to see and think differently. The simplest analogy: if I were a painter, was I painting houses or painting paintings? I wanted the latter for my photography. Being creative is not easy; it takes serious effort and focus. Often, when I look at the landscape, I see images that have been done before (by me and others). I avoid those photographs because they detract from the time I have to create the wow image. In the above image, I was captivated by the stark Canadian landscape. I drove along the road for countless miles without stopping; I knew that without a mental vision for an image I would merely photograph mundane elements and waste the time that could be used when I thought of an original idea. And then I found these animal tracks and made this photograph. If I spend time making a photograph that began from a vision within me, the result will have a value that transcends the landscape that was physically in front of the camera because I will have added to it. My photographs should have at least these elements: the landscape and my contribution to it or my interpretation of it. If it lacks these elements I failed. Before creating this photograph, I was faced with a brilliant sunlight filled landscape after a morning of rain. I could have easily included the Sun, the misty reeds in the water and the surrounding elements. Instead of doing what everyone else does, I isolated the reeds in the brightness and made a series of exposures. By doing so, I have contributed something new to our world; my art is not the 433,820,287th photograph of reeds after a rain. Please note, I use the word Xerox here to represent my impression of the most popular or commonly used photocopier machine. When I write, "do not Xerox" I mean, don't be like a photocopier, hence, Xerox is positively used.

  • Escaping Brilliance

    It is easy to be captivated by a beautiful sunrise or the brilliant colors of sunset. Such moving scenes last for moments and I often must put aside my awe of nature, get working and push my creativity. As an artist, I am not content with merely duplicating the landscape, I am not a Xerox copier; I seek to portray it from my unique perspective. Of course, this is easier said than done, however, when I focus my efforts, the result is art. I have been to this location on the western shore of New Jersey numerous times and it has always been a challenge to escape its brilliance. On this occasion, I patiently waited until the sun had set. I hiked a short distance in the thick shore grass and located a perspective that included the water reeds; I liked the way they led my eyes up towards the water. I made a series of long exposures to smooth the water and give the clouds some movement. I must put aside my emotional reaction to the landscape and remind myself that I am there to produce something more i.e. create my own brilliance. Being spontaneously creative is incredibly difficult and often I feel tremendous pressure working in rapidly changing light or in an inspirational landscape. What image do I see in my mind? What do I create? What lens matches the ideas in my mind? What filters will blend the light properly? The questions are endless; their job is to cajole my creativity. This is neither lofty nor esoteric; standing in front of a brilliant landscape and thinking, "I can’t beat this," means I have already declared my failure without even making an effort. In other words, if I tell myself I cannot do something then I will most certainly fail. Instead, I accept the challenge and do what is necessary to portray my vision. Once I escape the brilliance and my own stumbling blocks, I am ready to use all of my energy to get the job done.

  • Tripods and Heads

    It is extremely frustrating to discover a photograph is blurry after I've returned home from the landscape, when I am back at my computer. Making an incredible photograph is hard enough and I do not need blur to ruin it. Often there is a tremendous effort spent driving to a faraway location or a long and arduous hike with unique weather conditions that cannot be duplicated; regardless, I do not take chances or waste my time, a sturdy tripod can help reduce blur and I always carry one with me. My tripods must survive sea water, sand and mud. In wet environments, I plant the legs firmly (think deep) into the ground to reduce movement from waves or wind. Some of my tripods have sealed legs that do not allow water and particles in, they easily shake dry and are lighter, however, my default tripod’s legs are not sealed, everything gets into them and they require frequent deep cleaning. The weather and landscape dictate which tripod I use. In sand, I frequently reach for sealed legs, however, if it is very windy or a strong surf, then I must use one of my heavier non-sealed tripods; a strong wave can topple a tripod and it is not worth the risk. Tripods are useless without a head (same with people!). The head attaches to the camera via a clamp and plate. There are many different types of tripod heads; each has a purpose and a set of advantages. I personally prefer ball heads because I can rapidly setup and reposition my camera or keep it loose while I stare through the viewfinder. I use an Arca Swiss style clamp with Wimberley brand plates. The plate is attached to the camera or lens. With a quick twist of the knob I have a tight lock. I also use a bubble level on the camera (in my camera's hot-shoe flash mount) to ensure my camera is level (a bubble level on the tripod is useless when using a ball head). Over the years, I have realized there is an unintended benefit to using a tripod; it allows me to work without having to hold the camera all the time. Both hands free offers me the option of changing a lens if the perspective doesn't match the image in my mind; I can also easily add filters to the front of the lens without needing a third hand. I can roam the nearby landscape without worrying about or tiring from an expensive and heavy object. Most importantly, with my camera on a tripod, I can stare through the viewfinder, slow the process down and spend time considering the next exposure. I have used Arca Swiss ball heads for many years; I was fortunate to find an original B1 monoball (not the smaller B1 that is manufactured today, the huge version). I also use a Manfrotto Proball, which is no longer manufactured. These ball heads are extremely well built, very reliable and fortunately spare parts are available; I’ve ordered replacement parts from Manfrotto Spares (www.manfrottospares.com). Lastly, I never carry my camera on my tripod as I hike or walk around. I know it looks cool, but it would not be cool if I smashed a lens or hit the camera on something hard, therefore, I recommend you never do it either.

  • Fishermen

    In October 2005 I was working with 35mm film along the coast, slightly north of Boston. I arrived at the shore before dawn and could feel the wind gently rock my truck; it was cold and dark. I grabbed my tripod, camera and one lens and walked towards the beach where I saw several men fishing in a soft reddish mist. The fishermen were sporadic; there was a loneliness. I stood and stared. It sparked a memory of my father; he enjoyed dawn beach fishing. It was bitterly cold; I had no gloves and the surf spray was biting; I was locked in the memory. My dad would shove three or four tubes in the sand, cast into the sea and set the rods in the tubes. Sometimes there were one or two other men off in the distance doing the same, or we were alone. I would explore the surrounding beach, frequently looking back to check if he was packing up to leave; most of the time he either stared at the tips of the rods or gazed into the ocean, seemingly deep in thought. My father loved photography; he taught me about exposure using film speed, aperture and shutter on his Nikon Nikkormat. The right side of the viewfinder had a simple light meter and correct exposure showed as a horizontal line; the line tilted downward if it were too dark or upward if too bright. The Nikon was off limits without him nearby, but I did not obey. Often, when at his apartment, I would open the case, practice changing lenses and learn the effects on exposure by turning the dials. It was a heavy camera for a small boy. I always put it back carefully, to avoid getting in trouble. When I was ten or eleven, he tasked me to be his photographer; he needed the perfect photograph. I was very excited. Later that evening he took me to a basement disco party, told me where to sit, gave me his Nikon and walked away. Moments later, he emerged with his African American girlfriend, dancing and kissing. I raised the camera to my eye, focused and did my best to set the correct exposure in the low light. Unfortunately, the contrast between his white skin and her black skin, plus the dim basement light, made it impossible to photograph. I decided a silhouette of the two of them doing their thing was best; I shot through the entire roll of film. Weeks later, dad told me that he was thrilled with the photographs. Back to 2005; I positioned my tripod to accentuate the men as separate in their solitude. The dawn light on the sand was important to me. I knew how to set the correct exposure and I kept the shutter open for nearly one second. The nearest man looked my way, as if wondering what I was doing; he returned his gaze to the sea, and to his thoughts. My Fishermen photograph was a turning point; up until then I had taken thousands of photographs hoping to capture the right moment of what was in front of me. Here, I made a photograph of something that was inside of me.

  • Working Questions

    Early on in my career, back in the film days, I created a booklet of helpful questions that I would ask myself while working in the landscape to help focus my photography. I compiled the questions over several years; many came from mistakes I discovered after the film was developed. A few were reminders to help guide me and some of the questions came from books or articles. Ultimately, the questions became a booklet of index cards with one question per card; I could easily whip out the booklet and flip through the cards while working, I’d read and answer each question out loud. Often, the booklet of questions helped cajole better images out of me. Eventually the questions became ingrained in my workflow and I did not need the booklet anymore; yet these basic questions serve as my foundation to this day. I have included some of my working questions here and hopefully one or two may help you. Working Questions What is the photograph of? What is the subject of the scene? Is there a single subject? Is the subject obvious or cluttered? Will the viewer see the same subject? Is the subject in the center of the scene? Should the subject be in a different location? Is the subject stationary or moving? Is the scene interesting or exciting? What special characteristics exist in the scene? Is there a “wow” factor to the scene? What is the main focus point? Is the foreground and/or background focused? Will focus be lost with a slower shutter speed? Should the mirror be locked? Does selective focus hurt or help the scene? Are there lines in the scene? What kind of lines are they? Are they straight, wavy, transparent? Are the lines the subject of the scene? Do the lines lead the viewer’s eye to the main subject of the scene? Do the lines lead to a resting point for the viewer’s eye? Do the lines go out of the scene? Is the horizon in the scene and is it level? Can you hint at the existence of the horizon without including it? How does the horizon look when it is higher or lower in the scene? Is there texture in the scene? Can changing the angle of the camera enhance the texture? Is the texture illuminated by low angled light? Are there shadows to the texture? Can a foreground object be illuminated by background light? Can a silhouette or outline be the subject? Can the subject be framed by changing the position or angle of the camera? Is there a natural or man-made frame surrounding the subject? (Always meter the part of the scene you want to accentuate) While looking through the viewfinder, what is not necessary? What can be removed from the scene that clutters the subject? Can elements be removed by filling the frame with more of the subject? Should the subject take up the entire frame? Can another angle help to remove items that distract from the subject? Is it difficult to judge the size of the subject? Is there anything in the scene that determines actual size? Is there another perspective of the scene? What is the eye drawn to first while looking through the viewfinder? Can the scene be made less predictable? Are there unexpected qualities of the scene? Is there anything beyond the predictable first impression of the scene? Are there bright colors that divert the eye? Is there a class of colors? Is the weather, lighting or exposure effecting the color of the scene? Are the colors saturated, brilliant or faded? Should the colors be intensified or subdued? Do the colors need exposure compensation? What effect will a slow or fast shutter speed have on the photograph? What effect will a small or large aperture have on the photograph? Are different brightness levels larger than four stops? Is this an easy shot or did it require effort? How many exposures have been made from the same position?

  • Do Not Try, Just Do

    I do not try my best; I do what is necessary. This applies to all endeavors, from making photographs to being kind to others. I am not naïve; the politics of today shun this arrogance, nonetheless, it is how I am. My ESL mother (she was born in Peshawar) indoctrinated me with the words, “Do not try; people who try, fail. Just do.” Years later, in one of the Star Wars movies, I watched in disbelief when Yoda said, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” The directive was obviously not that uncommon. I frequently hear people say, “Do your best.” Everyone is free to live their own way; however, I cannot imagine an airplane pilot doing her best to land the airplane. She should just land, otherwise, not fly in the first place. Why is this attitude shunned when applied to other endeavors i.e., creating art? I must push myself to make a photograph that meets the image in my mind; there is no risk versus rewards analysis beforehand. I do what I must. This might mean sliding down a ravine for a specific perspective and worrying later how to climb up, driving hundreds of miles on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, crawling on a wet sea boulder in the rain or waking hours before dawn to drive to a remote location to see if the scattered sunrise colors match my vision from the previous evening. My artwork is built on decades of countless failures; I kept my nose to the grindstone instead of packing my bags and going home with a participation trophy. Art collectors do not buy participation trophies; they buy the best. I want my artwork to be appreciated, admired and valued. If it sucks, I want to know so I can learn, work harder and improve.

  • The Writer

    ​Notwithstanding my creativity with fine art photography, in my early teens, twelvish, I wanted to be a writer; feelings were indeterminate prior, although, at four or five, like boys of that day, there were bouts of wanting to be a fireman or policeman. I had the plastic sheriff’s badge and the leather holster on my hip – no gun, dad did not allow me to play with toy guns – I shot at boys with my index finger and cocked thumb. But I digress, back to being a writer; I wrote proliferously, I loved expressing myself and I dreamed, one day, my words would impart significant relevance. inc bl movzx edi,sptr shl edi,1 lea edi,ptr[edi+edi*4] cld movsd movsd movsw popad iretd It was also around then that I discovered another creative pursuit, computer programming. In sixth grade, while at PS 144, the school installed six or eight Tandy Radio Shack TRS-80 computers. I asked when I would be taught how to use them; I was told they were for select students, not me. A year later, at twelve, I was programming in Basic and inline Assembly language on a Commodore PET computer. Just simple programs for graphics and reading or writing blocks of memory to a cassette. I had limited access to computers, I spent far more time reading and conceptualizing how code would execute than seeing it run on screen. For a brief time I had a Commodore 64 computer, however, it died after a few months and never booted again. Writing programs became entirely cerebral. My dreams of becoming a writer had not waned. To read more books I took the Evelyn Wood Speed Reading Course. However, writing eventually took a back seat when I accepted a programming job with a startup company at 50 Broadway, half a block from Wall Street. School got out at noon and I programmed until 8PM daily (plus weekends); I wrote inventory and accounting software. A year later, after turning sixteen, the company closed due to a partnership dispute; the customers asked me to continue with them directly. I took retainer deposits and worked independently and as needed. My school grades suffered tremendously, nonetheless, I refused to be hindered by a lagging educational system that failed to keep up with my drive. Mom was furious. I rented a basement apartment in Queens at seventeen and I incorporated my first company shortly thereafter. cld mov ecx,9 xor eax,eax mov edi,esi repz scasb jnz short testsignbit mov cl,[edi] and cl,07fh setz ah ror ah,2 testsignbit: bt word ptr [esi+9],7 setc bh or ah,bh and sstat,_c3210mask or sstat,ax popad iretd ​I never stopped writing; I took creative writing classes at the Learning Annex and continued with a journal and dabbled in short stories. Programming for increasingly more customers became even more stressful when, at nineteen, I started my second software company with one of my college professors. We programmed non-stop for over a year and a half, writing obscure and abstract Assembly language code, hundreds of thousands of lines; it left me isolated, reclusive, i.e. jailed. I also wrote my first book, a four hundred page software manual for the company’s product. However, two companies were a prison cell, so I sold my half to the professor. I continued writing software for the next three decades. My programs are trusted worldwide: New York, Illinois, California, China, India, Europe; they work 24/7 and are used by countless people. For most of my life I felt as though I had put off my childhood dream; I realize now that I have always been a writer, I have written millions of lines of intensely creative programming language. I guess I never let that twelve year old Derek down. I had fulfilled his dream all along.

  • Safety

    I am ambivalent about this topic; it may appear paranoid and, simultaneously, reveal some of the things I do to protect myself and my valuables while I am alone in the landscape. On the flip side, some of my experiences may help others. Regardless of whether I am traveling with a cheap or expensive camera - the value does not matter - nefarious individuals may view me as a target because I am alone with property. I always cover my property in the truck with clothing or towels; this curtails the imagination of someone looking for an easy opportunity to smash and grab. While staying at a hotel far from home, the last thing I want to wake up to is a broken window and property missing. While staying overnight somewhere, I never open my truck and touch my camera gear in the parking lot. If I need to put a camera or lens back in the case, or if I need to grab film or a memory card, I stop a couple of miles away, long before I get to the hotel. Furthermore, in the event of a break in, it is not easy for criminals to remove my property; equipment cases are chained to the frame and it would take many minutes or more to break them out. Most opportunistic criminals look for easy or fast targets; if they are not certain, they will likely look for a better mark. Nonetheless, better safe than sorry. Sometimes I leave one or two valuable items in my hotel room when I am out in the landscape working. To help prevent theft, before I head out, I always put the Do Not Disturb sign on the door knob and turn the TV on low but high enough for someone to think the room is occupied. I also keep my items together in the room so when I checkout, there is less of a chance of leaving something behind. Trouble can occur in a city or in the forest (have you ever seen the movie Deliverance?). When I am alone, it is my responsibility to maintain a low profile i.e. I do not flash my camera around as if it were a Gucci handbag. I am not in the landscape to show off or play with expensive toys. I take my camera out of my backpack only when I know what I want to do with it; then I put it away when done. I keep my camera and lenses in a padded backpack to prevent damage if I slip or fall; if the camera is in my hand while I hike, it will be the first point of contact with the ground. I am always courteous with the people I meet on my travels. Sure, it is important to be polite, however, I may need their help if I have truck problems or similar. If I greeted them previously with a friendly smile, they may be more inclined to be kind. On several occasions I have had to avail myself of the help of a local resident. While in the Gaspe Peninsula, my Jeep died; I rammed it into a snowbank and locals found a lady who spoke English. She invited me into her home while the Jeep was towed and repaired. Be kind and it will be returned to you tenfold. I also do not trespass on private property (if there are no signs I ask or proceed cautiously); not following the rules can lead to trouble or worse, delay my work. Some of my journeys are multi-day drives to get to my destination and it is extremely important to carry extra supplies, including water and food. A proper diet is crucial for keeping me alert and I must stop when I am tired. When I plan my routes, I look for multiple stops along the way just in case I cannot drive the intended distance for that day. I also carry extra tools, a floor jack, air compressor and extra tire plugs in the event of a flat tire. I also keep two quarts of motor oil, engine coolant, wood blocks, a couple of tarps, five gallons of water, snow chains, rags, rope, medical kits, hand warmers, blankets, heavy duty work gloves, work goggles and a breaker-bar with a long pipe to unstick tight lug nuts (I injured my lower back getting a lug nut off my tire while in Labrador). While I would rarely use most of these items, when I might need them, I am nowhere, and one of them could help prevent a bad situation from getting worse. By preparing for the worst, I ensure a greater chance of success. With regards to my work, I make multiple backups of files; I carry several 2TB or 4TB drives and copy images onto them every evening. Fact of life: mechanical and electrical devices fail. I never want a device failure to stop an entire photography trip. I also stay connected while travelling; while it is much easier to find Internet today, I also use a WeBoost in my truck to boost cell signals when I am far from civilizations. When I am outside of the United States, which most of the time means Canada, I am respectful of local customs and differences. For example, in Quebec, I first apologize for not speaking French (even though I took four years of French in high school!) before asking if they speak English. A little humility goes a long way! All my travels are a learning experience; I am observant, take precautions and do not to panic when something bad occurs.

  • Yada, Yada, Yada

    It is easy to be in awe of a photographer and judge him or her as a genius or a natural. As the viewer, I rarely know the artist’s influences or life experiences i.e., I only see the art, not the recipe or the raw ingredients that shaped the vision. Artist biographies often neatly package the most compelling life events: he drank, it altered his perspective; her child died, it changed her profoundly; he went to a remote island, the simplicity changed his life – yada, yada, yada – ultimately the artist had an adventure or overcame adversity and frequently, the steeper the challenge, the more impressive the story. Moreover, biographies are often created for marketing purposes; messy parts of life are thoroughly cleansed, the artist is portrayed as esteemed with the truth cloaked. It can feel unlifelike; it leaves me wondering, what are the real bricks in the artist’s foundation. We are no different than publicized artists; our lives are as rich and have similar depth. Events in life are links on a chain, each depends on the previous and a magnifying glass on one link is an incomplete image. I can point to events in my life, had one not occurred, I would be an unfamiliar Derek. Why do I see how I see? What has shaped my thinking? Like the promoted artists, we all have turning points in life – our very own yada, yada, yada – which shaped how we perceive. My yada, yada, yada? Mom and dad were emotionally transparent; they smoked lots of pot and were pathological narcissists. As the only child, it fell on me to recognize their achievements and bestow admiration; encouragement and praise flowed backwards. Each used me against the other in their divorce when I was seven. Mom had a tough childhood – born to misogynistic parents in British India (now Pakistan), she was denigrated for not being born a boy and was ill-equipped for a son (I was supposed to be aborted, however (fortunately?), she said, “I did not want them inserting something into my vagina to get you out.”). Dad’s youth was not much better, he rebelled against his racist mother by embracing African American culture, exclusively dated poverty-stricken Black women after my mom and developed an extreme form of Antisemitism; all a contorted conundrum he took to his grave. Having been deprived of acceptance by mom and dad because of their yada, yada, yada, I overachieved to get noticed, ultimately discovering relief through work, at thirteen, carrying golf bags at Deepdale. Getting paid was my only acknowledgment; currency was the only appreciation I received. More yada, yada, yada? There were two extraordinarily influential men in my childhood, neither of whom appeared through happenstance; Coach at Highland and Julian, my teacher, at Deepdale. Both unwittingly helped me build my foundation, one brick at a time. Coach was a brutal authoritarian who taught me how to push myself past breaking point, to find inner strength after I was depleted; Coach taught me how to be a man. Julian introduced me to my Self. I am a mosaic of both men and their teachings made up for the deficiencies at home. It would be woefully insufficient to merely say I had a tough Coach and a Carlos Castaneda-style spiritual teacher; these men were more. The events of my life – my yada, yada, yada – have shaped my perception; how I see and how I think. What is your yada, yada, yada?

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