2015: A Postmortem and Retrospective.

2015: A Postmortem and Retrospective.

We humans love to think in terms of beginnings and ends, and where, in reality, January 1 carries no more significance than any other day, we see it as a beginning of a new year full of promise.

And that is fine with me. 2015 was a difficult year for me, and I am damned glad it is over. I want to look forward to new opportunities.

First the good stuff from 2015:

My family is well and healthy, and I am going to be a grandfather. One of my daughters who was a bit estranged is now back ‘in the fold’ and we are all having such a good time together.

Project 52 started out with a bang in August, and the level of artistry in this year’s group is absolutely awesome – and you all know I do not use that word lightly. Project 52 is the glue to my existence these days. Thanks to everyone who is taking part.

My friends are all doing well, although a good bud of mine in Texas is having a rough year. We are all thinking about you, Charles. I know you can kick ass on that thing.

I made a decision to ride a motorcycle from Phoenix to Fairbanks, Alaska and have begun to get ready for that ride starting August 1, 2016. When I made the pronouncement I didn’t even own a motorcycle. I do now. And I am loving taking solo rides through the southwest.

The motorcycle is a luxury, I know… but I needed something to get me excited again. It seems to be doing the job.

Now the other stuff:

2015 was the worst creative year I have had in decades. I feel like my mojo done mojo’d off somewhere. I took fewer photographs than I ever have in a year. I was interested in some aspects of my creative life, but other parts just seemed to be sluggish at best.

Why?

You mean, what’s my excuse? I don’t have no friggin’ excuse. Excuses suck. Even more than my creative year of 2015 sucked.

My leg bothers me more than expected 2 years after the incident, but that is always going to be there and while it is annoying as hell, it is not an excuse to fall behind creatively. And I have worked through other challenges worse than a stupid leg cramp.

I fired three clients this past year. More than in a decade previous. Just got tired of the lame bullshit of diminished productivity. If you ain’t ready to commit, I am not interested in rowing your sinking boat. But that is just the way it is.

I pondered (picture me pondering… awesome…) over the last few weeks and have come to the conclusion that while I am pushing others to be their best, I may have slacked off on my own sorry ass. Not that I don’t work to be the best I can be, I just have not taken the effort out of the box to give it a shot.

Am I creatively afraid? I honestly cannot answer that.

I have rarely been afraid in the decades I have been making stuff, but I do feel like something in my core has fractured a bit. Not fallen apart yet, but fractured enough that it needs attention, Lots of attention.

Being creative has always been how I have defined myself, my work, my output. I may not be the most brilliant creative on the planet, but I do pretty well in the trenches. I love the trenches. I love getting into the process and the production, the grimy grit of where it gets made.

I love makers. I have always been a maker.

At least, I was until last year… and while I made some stuff, my output was lower than acceptable to me. It seemed like every time I started something I knew I had to do, it would get messy, and confused… and I would begin to pull away from it, not wanting to continue. A book is left half finished, another in nearly final form but sitting on a drive and without much love from me.

Maybe this is what they call a “Grand Funk”… or a “Creative Block”?

Who the hell cares what they call it, I want out. Desperately want out.

My action plan:

I have been working pretty hard this month to get ready for this ad-hoc ‘beginning’ of 2016. And I have been making stuff, getting it done. Shipping out is next, and that means I have had to shift some priorities. Slide a little here, shave a bit off there. Axe that crap right off the table… shifting.

My goal is to make something every day. 

Produce something every week.

To ship something every month.

Less FB, more camera/pen/stylus in hand. More time outside. More time working this fucking leg to either get it strong enough or kill the SOB.

If the last few weeks are any indication, I should be able to meet those goals.

Lighting Essentials is a big part of the plan. A new look coming next week, articles and tutorials that will put my creativity to the test. I hope you stick around to see what LE will become.

I know this is not your typical “GoodGollyGee, I am so awesome and have been doing better than I ever expected” end of year post, but it is heartfelt.

And I know I am not the only one in a funk, a darker place, a trench in the front yard of Mr. Happy’s summer fucking home.

If you are going through something similar, may I suggest you DO something, and ship it. Get it done.

Small successes can lead to a tiny bit bigger than small success. Hey, it takes time.

I will keep you posted occasionally on what my funk level is, and perhaps we can help each other.

Until then, I will leave you with something that has helped me get going. A heavy metal band, Disturbed, recently covered a 70’s piece by Simon and Garfunkle, “Sound of Silence”. To say they made it their own is an understatement. I have watched it a gazillion times – not only for the wonderful musicality but for the incredible visuals of master photographer Matt Mahurin… a lifelong creative and someone I am influenced by. Enjoy.

Shooting a CD Cover: Front and Back (Project 52)

Shooting a CD Cover: Front and Back (Project 52)

This past week we have been reviewing the CD cover assignment for the Project 52 2015 group. The assignment was for a cover and back image for a String Quartet performing Samuel Barber’s String Quartet Op 11.

The assignment specifically noted that the string quartet members may not be available for the shoot, so a creative solution must be found. (I don’t give assignments that are impossible… and finding a string quartet to photograph may not be totally impossible, but damn close for many of us.)

When shooting a CD cover there are three main ways of approaching the image.

For pop music it is usually going to be a photograph of the artist. Rare are the covers that do not have the artist shown. The cult of personality, and celebrity demands that we keep the faces of the performers in the fore. In many cases, the celebrity is more important than the music anyway. See the covers below for Faith Hill.

faithhill

Another way is to show something that is reminiscent of the music, or an image that may be part of the title. Respighi’s “The Pines of Rome” cover could certainly have the pines of Rome featured:

respighi

And the third way is use art that is quite striking, but may not relate to the music but in the most obtuse of ways. This is usually done when there is no necessary correlation between the recorded music and a celebrity, or an album that is more about the music or genre of music than the actual performers.

windhamhill

Some labels like Windham Hill above was a full adopter of that approach to album design, and helped create the style as we know it today. Another company that also used art, although in many cases commissioned art, for their classical work was Nonesuch. Both of these legacies live in today’s music cover designs.

nonesuch

The CD cover is becoming less of a major label concern as streaming has taken its toll, but cover art will be around for a while longer and is very important for Indie bands and artists.

Here are a few of my favorites from the Assignment. Remember the cover is on the right side, back panel on left.

Continue on after the jump to see the class images.

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Exceptional Portraits (from the workshop)

Exceptional Portraits (from the workshop)

One of the most exciting and ultimately satisfying things I am doing is the 8 Week Workshop courses. We mostly focus on portraits, but are beginning to expand out with an upcoming Still Life Workshop as well. And more ideas are in the works.

This last week, we studied the work of Sara Moon. Moon is a fashion photographer best known for her intimate, nearly painterly like fashion imagery. And while most of the students do not seek a career in fashion, there is much to be learned from studying her work and being inspired by it.

I want to share with you a few of my favorites, as well as the entire classes work.

Cover image: Thomas Poehler

PLEASE SEE THE REST OF THE POST AFTER THE JUMP
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Now Enrolling for Two Different 8 Week Photography Workshops

Now Enrolling for Two Different 8 Week Photography Workshops

If portraiture is your interest, we are starting the 8 Week Portrait Workshop 102 in January. There are still a few openings if you are interested. See the workshop page for more information on this unique class. Lots going on in that class, and if you love portraiture, you should check it out.

The second course is a brand new one we decided to call the 8 Week Still Life Class. Most likely because it is 8 weeks long and focuses on still life and table top work. This is somewhat new for us, so we are looking at other disciplines that could be brought into the 8 week structure.

These 8 week units have been very popular and we love teaching them. I hope you check them out if you are interested.

“Connected” – A Travel Photographers Visual Diary of the World and its People

“Connected” – A Travel Photographers Visual Diary of the World and its People

Matt Dutile is a young, emerging, and very talented people photographer who specializes in travel and lifestyle editorial. His newest project is a book of his more enigmatic imagery.

What started as a promotional piece, has grown into a larger, more robust publication of over 80 photographs. I had an opportunity to chat with him recently, and we discussed this new book project, his recent travels, and the many fascinating places he has visited in his quests. Shooting for magazines and clients worldwide, take a few minutes to listen to Matt discuss the world of travel photography, and his favorite subject – the people of the world.

Here is a link to the INDIEGOGO site where you can pick up a copy of this very unique and fascinating book. This is a collectors item, and only a few hundred people will ever have a copy.

See more of Matts work at his website: www.mattdutile.com

Here are the spreads we looked at in the video.

All images below by Matt Dutile, and are protected by copyright.

Madagascar1India2  Madagascar3 Mexico2 Morocco2 Peru1 Sicily2

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Two new classes are now enrolling for January:

8 Week Portrait Workshop 102

8 Week Still Life Workshop

Gettin’ the Adventure Spirit

Gettin’ the Adventure Spirit

Perhaps it is because it is the Saturday after Thanksgiving, or maybe the wanderlust of the highway calling to me, but today’s update is a bunch of cool stuff about adventure photography that makes me want to get out the door, fire up Sarek and “head out on the highway, lookin’ for adventure”.

I have said it many times; if I was starting this road of commercial photography again, it would be adventure photography I would be chasing. Perhaps it will be, and perhaps I shall at some point. (Do you get the feeling that there is something in the air saying “reset”… a big change comin’ and perhaps it is indeed a time for a reset.) Who knows… hell, certainly not me.

I am just a writer/photographer who is wanting to have some fun on these final laps. Get the fuel ready, boys, I want another race.

Michael Clark puts out a quarterly newsletter that is well designed and full of great information for a start up photographer or a seasoned pro. Check his downloadable newsletter out here, and see his work here. Damn.

Paolo Marchesi is a fine adventure shooter as well. This blog post about shooting surfing on Todos Santos, and island off the coast of Mexico is really a great read. Wonderful photos as well. You can see his work here.

Go vertical with Matt and Agnes Hage while they shoot for Outdoor Research. This post talks about their recent shoot on the rock faces of Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah. See their amazing work here.

Chris Burkard knows photography… and social media. With over a million Instagram followers, there is a sense that a lot of people like adventure photography. Listen to this interview with him on how he does what he does and check out his work here. Tumblr too…

From extreme adventure sports to sublime landscapes, Alex Buisse delivers every time. Check out this blog post on shooting for Red Bull. Then check out his work here.

See ya next time…