Off Topic Sunday, October 26, 2014

An absolutely astoundingly hectic week. My daughter got married Friday night, and Saturday was spent on a hundred different unrelated errands. Now, Sunday is going to be for catching up and getting ready for next week.

Check out this amazing commercial. And please stay to the end so you can really see how powerfully creative this spot is. Kudos for the creators and a BIG shout out to the manufacturer of this product for having the guts to go with something so different.

Our weekly Jazz entry:

Don Ellis was an innovator, a visionary and a hell of an incredible Jazz arranger / composer. This piece, “Strawberry Soup” is his seminal piece and one of my all time favorite works. For jazz orchestra, string quartet and a bunch of different types of wind instruments, the piece has the structure of a symphony in three parts – with a drum solo. There are four drummers in the group. Ellis plays the trumpet and has the trumpet solo and jumps in the drum solos at the fourth drummer spot. Don Ellis died too young at the age of 44 from a heart condition.


Our weekly classical entry:

Samuel Barber’s Piano Concerto is one of his most atonal pieces and was composed in 1960 for a commission by his publisher G. Schirmer. It is scored for full orchestra and piano soloist. While it has a very modern approach to tonality, it is still an easy piece to listen to and is quite accessible to the classical music newbie.



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See you next Sunday.


Photographers You Should Know: Jeanloup Sieff

I discovered Jeanloup Sieff while going through a bunch of black and white portfolios in a used book store in the early 80’s. Fell in instant love with his incredible monochromatic view of the world, and followed along as he gained more and more fame as a photographer with a huge, minimalistic style.


From his gallery:

Born in Paris to Polish parents Jeanloup Sieff (1933 – 2000) began shooting fashion photography in 1956 and joined the Magnum Agency in 1958, which enabled him to travel extensively. Settling in New York for much of the sixties he worked for Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue and Elle, photographing celebrities such as Jane Birkin, Yves Saint-Laurent, Rudolf Nureyev and Alfred Hitchcock amongst others. Sieff won numerous prizes including the Prix Niepce, the Chevalier des Arts et Lettres in Paris in 1981 and the Grand Prix National de la Photographie in 1992, and his work is housed in many private and international collections.

Sieff is heralded as one of the great international photographic talents of the last half-century and has left an undeniable imprint on his generation. Prolific in many fields, the variety of his imagery highlights his broad artistry, ranging from fashion, nudes, landscape and portraiture.

With great tenacity, Sieff pursued a personal and highly effective signature style, soaked in playful imagination with a touch of irony. Seldom working in colour he favoured the discipline of black and white, often using to his advantage the spatial distortion of wide-angle lenses, the dramatic potential of shadow and exploitation of tone.

“I have always maintained that there is no such thing as art. There are only artists, producing things that give them pleasure, doing so under some compulsion, perhaps even finding the process painful, but deriving a masochistic joy from it!”, Jeanloup Sieff.



From another gallery that shows his work, the Bernhiemer Gallery.

“In the mid-1950s he worked as a freelance photojournalist and fashion photographer for Elle magazine, then in 1961 he went to New York, living and working there until 1966. After returning to Paris he photographed fashion, nudes, and portraits for numerous journals such as Vogue,Harper’s Bazaar, Paris Match, Glamour, Esquire, Look,Vogue, and Twen.”




A small gallery of Sieff’s images.
(All images are by Jeanloup Sieff)

Jeanloup Sieff Books on Amazon.

Too %$#*@ Much Freedom

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Last week I railed against too many rules.

Now I am asking if there is too much freedom?

Could I be off my meds, or a little daffy? To complain about too many rules and then question if there may be too much freedom too… OMG, I am turning into a …. no, I won’t go there.

And indeed we may have more freedom than we know what to do with… photographically that is. No, I am not discussing financial or political freedoms, I am talking about photography.

Today, we can do anything – ANY DAMN THING – we want.

We can Photoshop in a city we have never visited, we can fake a man looking over Manhattan from a desk and a studio in Phoenix. We can change hair colors and eye colors and slim a bit here, firm a bit there… we literally have no boundaries.

In Photojournalism, that manipulation is referred to as a no-no, or a “stupidass career killing dumb thing to do”… but I don’t want to get technical. And yet, there are PJ’s who have been caught pressing to the limits of those constraints because, well, they can.

The freedom exists for us to make worlds that only exist in our heads, and instead of having them look like illustrations, we add the credibility of photography to them and they become real. As real as this MBP I am typing away on this morning.

Reality gets blurred in the freedom to modify what we shoot… and quickly too. What used to take hours of work in Photoshop can now be done in a matter of minutes… so we have the freedom of time to work and manipulate and alter the ‘reality’ in front of us.

It can be a bit heady, and it plays out in different ways all across the scope of photography.

And while this ‘freedom’ to create can be a good thing, IS a good thing, it can – like all good things – be overdone. Pushed beyond the good and into the fake and deceitful. And even beyond, to the cruel and worse.

With this great freedom comes an equally and also overwhelming responsibility. We have great power in our eyes and minds, and managing that power with the constraint of an artist is like walking a tightrope, blind and being forced to listen to Pitbull at full volume.

Extraordinarily difficult and possibly puke inducing.

However, with all that said, it is in the tools of our trade where the freedom is becoming more and more ever present. Where once there were few choices, now there are myriad solutions. And the selection of tools becomes harder because of the segmentation, while at the same time becoming easier as the quality of the gear is rising to the point of ubiquitous.

We once had a defining line between “Pro” and “Amateur’ gear. Pros used professional cameras like Nikon F4’s and Canon EOS3n’s and Hasselblads and Mamiyas. Amateurs shot point and shoots. Pros had view cameras and press cameras and panoramic cameras. Amateurs shot point and shoots.

The price point kept the weekend, now and then shooter from spending on a Pro camera. The knowledge needed to produce images was tenfold what is needed today.

No darkroom means about 357.78 pounds of knowledge needed is removed. And that is only black and white.

Fast forward to today.

I am not sure you could even buy a camera today that would not be considered a top of the line camera only 10 years ago. The specs on entry level cameras like D7001’s and 60D’s and the like are beyond even what was imagined 10 or so years ago.

Today we can make excellent images on a variety of cameras from the big flagship cameras of Nikanon to mirrorless cameras to iPhones and Androids… all able t make images that meet the requirements of print, and exceed the quality of screen views by a country mile.

And so we have the ‘freedom’ to do whatever we want with whatever we want… and that can be a little intimidating. Like having lunch at TGIFriday’s with their 87 page menu, vs a small boutique restaurant in Portland that only serves 3 different gourmet meals.

Having all the choices means more work upfront, while in the three meal restaurant you choose the sea bass and get on with the wonderful conversation going on at the table.

I do not really think this is a problem if we recognize the hand of marketers at work. We are massaged into believing that the choices we make are far more important than they really are. They create the illusion of imperative change… change NOW or your work will die, and maggots will eat your hard drives, and no one will ever want to hang out with you.

Or, something.

Reality is this:

We have moved beyond a space where it really mattered. What matters now is the work. The subjects and the presentation and the engagement we create with our images.

I recently spoke with a photographer who was now purchasing his 4th 50MM lens. Starting with the 50MM 1.4, he then moved to the 50MM 1.2. After reading a post on a blog, he sold the 1.2 and bought a Zeiss 50MM. Now, he is looking to sell the Zeiss so he can get the Sigma because someone on a blog said they were actually sharper than the Zeiss.


But what does the work look like? What is the need for that change in the work? Where will that new lens benefit him in the images he makes?

Or is it because while he enjoys the world of freedom that having multiple choices involves, he chooses change without really knowing why?

Are there reasons for changing lenses? Absolutely. There are reasons for all of the choices we make… if we make them with the full knowledge of what we need and what we will see with that change. This knowledge comes from a firm core artistic vision and a strong business model.

This is the best time ever to be a visual medium artist. From photographers to artists to designers, this is OUR time. And that provides us great possibilities and overwhelming choices that must be met head on.

The world of too many rules can be as confusing as the world of too many choices, with too much freedom.

Stravinsky once said in regards to writing music for a choreographer;

“The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one’s self. And the arbitrariness of the constraint serves only to obtain precision of execution.”

– Igor Stravinsky

This is important to us as photographers too. A bag full of lenses and bodies will NOT necessarily make better photographs, but if we focus on the art itself, the gear can fold into the background and the subjects may reveal themselves in a less fettered way.

My last trip to Zion and Bryce was an interesting one. I took my Canon kit full of wide and long, and I also took my Nikon Df kit. It has only 4 primes from 28 – 85. having those constraints made the trip more creative for me – more of a challenge.

I had to work the shots into what I had and that ‘working’ it made me see “more”.

Look, I really don’t think we have ‘too much freedom… I LOVE the freedom to use what I want and do what I want and not give a damn about those who want to bring me down (Yeah, Brene!!!).

This week I will be shooting with a Mamiya 6×7. While I have lenses for it, I will be using the 65MM and the 90MM exclusively… probably (heh). The additional constraints are shutter speed max at 1/400 (although we can use flash at that shutterspeed), a very heavy apparatus so tripod is necessary, and a viewfinder that forces me to look straight down and have my eye next to the camera. Oh, and only 12 photos per roll… heh.

These are the parameters that make me excited to be doing the shooting. I must find the shots carefully and with as much deliberateness as possible. I am looking forward to it.

How about you? What do you think about imposing some structure around shooting that forces you to look deeper, find solutions and dig for the vision?

“In The Frame” is my weekly dispatch covering lots of tips and interesting points of view for emerging photographers. Some articles end up on Lighting Essentials, and some of them are only for my newsletter subscribers. No Spam, and we never give names to anyone.

Help a Singer Go To Argentina, and Get Four Hours Consulting

Hi everyone.

My daughter, Alissa, is going to Argentina with the Phoenix Children’s Chorus summer, 2015. We are all pretty excited.

You can hear them sing here. 

However, it costs a bit to send her, and we are looking for some ways to help her get there (along with still paying off a lot of big medical bills… heh). If you would like to donate to send this wonderful young lady on an incredible journey of song the summer after her senior year, and help this amazing student chorus, please send what you can. PCChorus/Donate


She wants to sing in Argentina… Don’t cry for her – help her go. :-)

But if you are looking to get some consulting for your business or photography, we can work something out for sure. The Chorus has set up a donations page and anyone can donate to the Chorus while specifically pointing those funds to an individual chorister. This is a tax-deductible charitable donation to the choir and they provide the paperwork you will need to claim the deduction.

I am offering something for those of you who would like to donate $300 to her choir trip.

If you do, I will provide 4 hours of consulting for you over the course of the following six months. You may use those hours for portfolio review, portfolio flow design, marketing strategies, website review, blog strategies, pricing strategies or whatever you would like. We can focus on lighting, style and image preparation if you would like, or make it a pure custom consultation to focus on your specific challenges.

The only caveats are:

  1. You must use the four hours in the six months following the donation.
  2. We use GoToWebinar for our meetings and I will record them for you.
  3. The hours are used in one hour increments, with a two hour max for one meeting.

I will only be offering this special “Send My Kid to South America” for a total of 10 photographers.

So if you are interested, here is how to do it.

Go to this page: PCChorus/Donate

Follow the directions there, but essentially you donate to them and apply those donations to Alissa Giannatti. Alissa will receive 70% of the funds donated in her name, and the balance of the donation goes to helping the choir’s other expenses.


Click on “Dedicate my donation” for the next screen.

Dedicate the donation to my kidlet, Alissa Giannatti.


Then send me a copy of your receipt, your name, your phone number and a good time to call and you and I will make our plan for the consulting. Yes, you can give this as a gift is you wish. Just let me know.

Again, only for 10 photographers. 

I am happy to construct a consultancy plan just for you, so take advantage of this offer if you need some help.

And if you simply want to donate $20 or $50 that would be wonderful as well.

Great Reads: October 2014 Releases

FullSizeRenderI don’t know very many photographers who do not have a large collection of photo books. Mine fills an entire double walled shelve system and is still growing.

I love books.  I love photographs.

Nothing better than to grab an old book, a cup of tea and peruse the imagery contained on pages that I turn. I like looking at photographs on screens, but I love looking at them on paper.

I think of them as gear for our brains.

So here are some new books on photography. Take a look and enjoy.

“Stephen Shore has had a significant influence on multiple generations of artists and photographers. Even for the youngest photographers working today, his work remains an ongoing and indisputable reference point. Stephen Shore: Survey includes over 250 images that span Shore’s impressive and productive career. The images range from 1969 to 2013, with series such as Early Works, Amarillo, New York City, American Surfaces and Uncommon Places, among others. Stephen Shore: Survey elucidates Shore’s contributions, as well as the historiographical interpretations of his work that have influenced photographic culture over the past four decades. The narrative of the catalogue is conceptualized around three particularly revealing aspects of Shore’s work, including his analysis of photographic and visual language, his topographical approach to the contemporary landscape and his significant use of color within a photographic context.”

“After World War II, the American road trip began appearing prominently in literature, music, movies and photography. As Stephen Shore has written, “Our country is made for long trips. Since the 1940s, the dream of the road trip, and the sense of possibility and freedom that it represents, has taken its own important place within our culture.” Many photographers purposefully embarked on journeys across the U.S. in order to create work, including Robert Frank, whose seminal road trip resulted in The Americans. However, he was preceded by Edward Weston, who traveled across the country taking pictures to illustrate Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass; Henri Cartier-Bresson, whose 1947 trip through the American South and into the West was published in the early 1950s in Harper’s Bazaar; and Ed Ruscha, whose road trips between Los Angeles and Oklahoma formed the basis of Twentysix Gasoline Stations.”

“At the end of the 1950s William Eggleston began to photograph around his home in Memphis using black-and-white 35mm film. Fascinated by the photography of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Eggleston declared at the time: “I couldn’t imagine doing anything more than making a perfect fake Cartier-Bresson.” Eventually Eggleston developed his own style which later shaped his seminal work in color-an original vision of the American everyday with its icons of banality: supermarkets, diners, service stations, automobiles and ghostly figures lost in space. From Black and White to Color includes some exceptional as-yet-unpublished photographs, and displays the evolution, ruptures and above all the radicalness of Eggleston’s work when he began photographing in color at the end of the 1960s. Here we discover similar obsessions and recurrent themes as present in his early black-and-white work including ceilings, food, and scenes of waiting, as well as Eggleston’s unconventional croppings-all definitive traits of the photographer who famously proclaimed, “I am at war with the obvious.”

“About Exiles, Cornell Capa once wrote, “Koudelka’s unsentimental, stark, brooding, intensely human imagery reflects his own spirit, the very essence of an exile who is at home wherever his wandering body finds haven in the night. ” In this newly revised and expanded edition of the 1988 classic, which includes ten new images and a new commentary with Robert Delpire, Koudelka’s work once more forms a powerful document of the spiritual and physical state of exile. The sense of private mystery that fills these photographs–mostly taken during Koudelka’s many years of wandering through Europe and Great Britain since leaving his native Czechoslovakia in 1968–speaks of passion and reserve, of his rage to see. Solitary, moving, deeply felt and strangely disturbing, the images in Exiles suggest alienation, disconnection and love. Exiles evokes some of the most compelling and troubling themes of the twentieth century, while resonating with equal force in this current moment of profound migrations and transience.”

“The Decisive Moment originally titled Images à la Sauvette-is one of the most famous books in the history of photography, assembling Cartier-Bresson’s best work from his early years. Published in 1952 by Simon and Schuster, New York, in collaboration with Editions Verve, Paris, it was lavishly embellished with a collage cover by Henri Matisse. The book and its images have since influenced generations of photographers. Its English title has defined the notion of the famous formal peak in which all elements in the photographic frame accumulate to form the perfect image. Paired with the artist’s humanist viewpoint, Cartier-Bresson’s photography has become part of the world’s collective memory. This new publication is a meticulous facsimile of the original book. It comes with an additional booklet containing an essay on the history of The Decisive Moment by Centre Pompidou curator Clément Chéroux.”

“In Partida, Robert Frank continues the journey through his archives, presenting us with a new series of images of friends, colleagues, interiors, of quiet still lives and snap shots of both ordinary and unexpected objects and situations. Frank’s visual diaries constitute an important part of both his later work and the ongoing art of the photo book.”