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Category Archives: Commentary
The series of shots above are of my dad’s Nikon S rangefinder, a camera he purchased while on a trip to Japan in 1955.
It’s a rangefinder whose lens I stared into countless times while moments of my childhood were captured during the late sixties and early seventies.
Looking at this camera now, I can still see my dad behind it, setting up a shot with me and my siblings, telling us where to stand while pointing his light meter in our direction.
The shutter would eventually click allowing us to get back to whatever vacation or holiday activity had prompted his Kodak moment. And then weeks would inevitably pass before a set of black-and-white prints or color transparencies revealed what my dad had seen thru the same lens I had smiled into.
I am reminded of how this process intrigued me at an early age, watching Dad frame each shot, measure the light, adjust f-stops and shutter speeds, and then finally focus the lens, sometimes repeating this sequence several times over.
And then the magic of revisiting these captured moments thru prints in an album or slides projected on a screen.
While Dad must have viewed a cornucopia of scenes over the years from behind this camera, I became captivated by what was regularly observed from my vantage point in front of it. Watching the process my dad followed to capture a moment in time and then see the photographs that resulted was both intriguing and inspiring.
All of this was taken to a higher level whenever Dad entrusted me to take a photograph using his camera.
I was mesmerized by all of the settings on his Nikon, a bewildering array of knobs and dials that was far more sophisticated than the single button Instamatic my mother used. Holding this hefty rangefinder in my unsteady hands as a child, I felt but for a brief moment not only what it was like to be a real photographer, but more importantly, what it was like to be my dad.
Sensing my burgeoning interest in photography, Dad gave me an old Ricohflex that was my mother’s camera in the fifties. He must have thought that a twin lens reflex would test whether my interest was a passing fancy or a lasting endeavor.
After scraping together enough money to buy a light meter and a few rolls of 120 film, I was soon snapping photographs of everyone and everything around me. It wasn’t long before I grew tired of the TLR’s limitations (let alone its antiquated look), as my eye was set on an SLR that was within reach of my savings account: a Nikon FM.
The day finally came when I not only had enough saved to buy my own Nikon, but had successfully convinced my skeptical mom that this was really what a 13 year old kid wanted to spend all of his hard-earned money.
I’ll never forget the moment I brought that camera home and started taking photographs with it.
I felt like a real photographer.
And I also got the sense of what it must feel like to be a man, a man just like my dad.
Fathers guide and inspire their children in a variety of ways, with my dad being no exception. It was Dad’s interest in photography that left the most profound impact on me.
I have him to thank for instilling in me a passion for this wonderful means of expression, a creative outlet that continues to have a positive influence on me to this day.
It took photographing this old rangefinder to bring Dad’s legacy into sharp relief.
Thanks Pops for inspiring me.
While I appreciate the kind words and generous feedback on my work of late, I remain unsatisfied.
Of the thousands of frames captured and dozens of photographs featured, there are only two or three shots that I believe are worthy of any praise.
This post is neither an attempt to solicit compliments nor is it to suggest I am feeling sorry for myself.
Rather, it’s merely a statement of my yearning to capture a shot that truly exemplifies my vision as a photographer, one that is truly remarkable.
It’s why I feel unsettled when I haven’t been shooting in days or worse weeks. And it’s why I feel energized after capturing a number of shots that help me fine tune my perspective further.
However strong at the time, this feeling is fleeting, for I know my best work will always remain ahead of me…
Here in Seattle, there are unique moments that will take you by surprise, and make you look twice. Such was the case last weekend, when I happened upon two serendipitous scenes.
The first occurred on Friday night when I was leaving the Rockbox in Capitol Hill. As I stepped outside of this karaoke bar around 10 pm, I noticed a crowd of people on a tennis court across the street.
On first glance, I thought some kind of standoff was occurring between two groups of people. But on closer inspection, I suddenly realized this was nothing more than the start of a friendly, yet competitive, game of dodgeball.
As the match started, I took a number of shots with my iPhone, but then turned my attention to watching each side slowly pick off opposing players. Not sure if this was an impromptu or organized gathering.
Regardless, it was really cool seeing such a diverse group of young Seattleites come together on a warm, spring night to play a game.
The second event occurred the next day as I was driving north along Stone Way as the street turns into Green Lake Way. As we passed a yard sale on my right, I suddenly noticed a quartet of women, dressed in kimono and playing the shimasen.
It was this surreal moment, which not only caused me to look twice, but also those driving by as evidenced by the number of cars slowing down in front of this house.
I quickly pulled off to a side street, parked my car, and hurried over to capture the scene. Before taking any shots, I took the opportunity to sit down (chairs were set out on the sidewalk) and listen to this group of Japanese and Japanese-American women play in unison.
It was an incredible and extraordinary moment, one that I eventually captured with my iPhone.
These back-to-back moments demonstrate the serendipity that exists here in Seattle. And it proves that the best camera is the one you have with you. While I would have preferred to shoot with my DSLR on both occasions, I am still glad to have had a decent phone camera to capture these moments, even if they are mere snapshots in time.
Slow Food USA is petitioning the EPA to investigate the causes behind bee colony collapse disorder, which some suspect is caused by agriculture pesticides. I signed this petition in hopes that the EPA will commission an objective and comprehensive study of the problem, without interference from those in the chemical industry. You can find more information at the SlowFood USA site.
The photograph below was taken at Brick House Vineyards, which is located between Newberg and Carlton, Oregon in the northern Willamette Valley. I thank Doug Tunnell, owner and winemaker at Brick House, for allowing me the opportunity to capture this image during harvest last Fall and also for bringing this important issue to my attention.
Captured on 10/19/10 with Canon 400D + EF 50mm, 1/250 sec at f/3.5, ISO 200.
Over the weekend, my daughter and I did a morning photowalk along Alki Beach in West Seattle.
While my daughter has developed a growing interest in photography, this was the first time she used a DSLR, specifically an old Canon 300D that had been gathering dust.
After a short lesson on how to hold the camera and adjust the zoom lens, she was shooting various scenes around us. The diptych below are shots we took of each other at the same moment.
It was fun watching her smile each time she viewed a captured image on the camera’s LCD screen. The magic of that digital moment reminded me of seeing images arise from paper in the darkroom when I was just a kid.
Best of all, it was a true joy having her eagerly share in one of my longstanding passions. I can’t wait to get out and shoot again on another father-daughter outing…
One of my resolutions for 2011 is to photograph, process, and print more in black and white.
It’s how I started shooting as a kid more than thirty years ago, initially using Ilford FP4 in a Ricohflex TLR and then migrating to Kodak PlusX and TriX with a Nikon FM SLR. To minimize costs and maximize frames, I loaded reusable cartridges with 35mm bulk film and then processed it at home in the bathroom.
Using a changing bag, it was easy transferring the film to a reel and then placing it inside a lightproof, processing canister. For printing, I would borrow the yearbook staff’s darkroom, creating 8x10s and 5x7s of everything I shot (see some of these prints here).
Today, my passion for B&W photography remains just as strong as it was then.
In order to bring B&W back into my work, I am intent on finding the right software to process my color digital images into black and white prints worth displaying. Two books have helped me in this effort thus far: Scott Kelby’s Lightroom 3 Book for Digital Photographers and Michael Freeman’s The Complete Guide to Black & White Digital Photography.
While Kelby dedicates only one chapter to the topic of converting color to black and white, the rest of the book remains highly relevant to processing and printing B&W images. In fact, I have been quite pleased with the results achieved thus far using Lightroom 3 (the photo of my daughter above was processed using this app).
Living up to its title, Freeman’s book offers a comprehensive overview of black and white photography, from its simple analog beginnings to its present digital form. Not only is the history of B&W photography covered, but also digital processing tools and workflow, shooting techniques and styles, as well as guidance on printing and display.
One thing Kelby and Freeman have in common is recommending Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro for processing color images into black and white. I downloaded Nik’s 15 day trial and have been pleased with some of the results I am seeing. At the same time, I remain pleased with the treatment Lightroom 3 has on certain images relative to what Silver Efex has generated (more on these comparisons in a future post).
Before going too far downstream in the processing of my work, I need to first learn how to shoot in black and white again. I need to start thinking about which subjects to capture and how these can be optimized for B&W images. It’s time to return to where I started several decades ago…back to the basic fundamentals of shooting in black and white.
Note: The photo above, “Muddy Hands”, was captured on 09/05/07 using a Canon 400D + EF28-135mm, 1/60 sec at f/5.6.
This short video resonated deeply with me, for it eloquently describes why visual experiences are so important to us, both as individuals and in the collective: “It is through these visual experiences that we define who we are, what we believe, and what we truly care about…”
As a promo piece for Intel’s new Core i5 processor, it underscores the profound impact technology is having on the creation and consumption of visual experiences.
With various means to capture and multiple screens to view, more and more of our visual experiences are being focused on digital imagery. Hardware has certainly played an important role here, but it is software, the brains of any device or application, that is driving the big leaps forward.
While the last ten years generated significant advances in how we capture, produce, and distribute images, the coming decade will transform photography in ways we have yet to imagine.
For example, research in computational photography is leading to the development of cameras without lenses. Already, digital processing tools can apply a variety of lens profiles and filters, as well as combine multiple exposures for HDR and other techniques in post-production.
The pace and scope of these and other software innovations in still and motion photography is incredibly exciting. It’s the primary reason why I am choosing to invest more of my personal and professional time in this space, both as a creator and facilitator of compelling visual experiences.
Back in my early teens, I wrote a letter to Ansel Adams, expressing how much I liked his work while sharing my desire to follow in his footsteps. I can’t remember how long it took Adams to reply, but I clearly recall the moment opening the mailbox to discover the postcard below.
I was in total shock that THE Ansel Adams, one of my photographer heroes, had taken the time to send me a note.
By 1980, Adams had become a national celebrity after garnering long overdue public attention and recognition for his work. It was during this time that Adams was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and was also featured on the cover of Time magazine (still have that issue somewhere).
While in the midst of this much deserved notoriety, Adams sat down on October 29, 1980 and typed out a short note to a young, aspiring photographer in Oklahoma. It really says a lot about the type of person Adams was to have taken the time to do this, offering encouragement to a fifteen year old kid who dreamed of becoming an artist like him.
Unfortunately, whatever determination I had at that time waned and eventually disappeared as I progressed thru high school and then college. Several decades later, my passion for photography has reignited, with a renewed focus to pursue this craft not only as a hobby, but hopefully as a vocation (more on that in a future post).
I am struck by how this postcard surfaced at this time, a reminder of how important it is to revisit your childhood dreams no matter where you are in life. Thank you Ansel Adams for your lasting encouragement. I hope to finally attain my goal this year.
P.S. On a lighter note, it really made me chuckle seeing how I used my full name here. I obviously thought it would carry more gravitas when corresponding with someone of Adam’s stature.
I thought it might be helpful to share the decision-making process I went through before launching thads•world. Fortunately, I came to this project with a good frame of reference, having launched a wine blog (BeyondtheBottle.com) several years ago using MovableType. Even still, there was much to learn about designing a photography blog, which inevitably focuses on the presentation of one’s images.
The first decision I had to make was whether to use an all-encompassing, stand-alone service such as liveBooks, SmugMug, PhotoShelter, Zenfolio, Squarespace, or go with a WordPress, Drupal, MovableType solution that I could fully customize and host myself. I was also intent on staying away from Flash-based sites, due to the lack of support provided on the Apple iOS platform and issues with search engine optimization.
Since my needs are unique and may not align with yours, I recommend starting with a list of requirements before making any purchase/implementation decisions. The more time you spend investigating, considering, and deciding on your approach, the better results you will achieve and the happier you will be over the long run.
With my decision to go with a CMS tool, I focused on those that would offer a scalable platform not only for text, but more importantly presenting images, video and other digital media. My consideration set boiled down to a choice between WordPress and MovableType. While I had used MovableType for my wine blog, I wanted to try WordPress after seeing so many sites using it and hearing so many sing its praises. Thus far, I am very happy with WordPress as my CMS. In fact, as a result of using it here on thads•world, I am going to migrate my wine blog to WordPress in the next few months.
After deciding on WordPress as my content management system, I then started looking at various WordPress themes for photography blogs. A search for “wordpress photography templates” helped me locate a number of informative posts reviewing various themes. The most insightful review I found was here, one written by a web designer/developer. This ultimately led me to Photocrati, a company that appealed to me for several reasons.
First, I really liked the variety of themes Photocrati offers for WordPress users, and the flexibility one has in fully customizing these to make them unique. Second, I liked the fact that this company was founded by a photographer, someone who understands the needs of folks like me. Third, I loved the price ($79 for all 15 themes) and usage terms (multiple sites). Fourth, I liked the guidance offered in selecting and setting up Photocrati’s preferred hosting service, BlueHost (more on this later in the post). Finally, I really admired how this company is using part of the proceeds from my purchase to invest in the Photocrati Fund, which offers grants to photographers working on humanitarian and environmental projects.
Thus far, I have been really pleased with my experience setting up, installing, and using Photocrati on my WordPress blog. I am also glad to have chosen a service that offers a broad, relevant knowledge base via online help articles and user forum posts. And it was very helpful going with a web host that Photocrati recommended. Here too, I have been happy with the pricing and service of BlueHost thus far, with the exception of a recent Sunday when my site was down. It would have been nice had BlueHost sent notification of the downtime.
Finally, I made a post-launch decision that involved returning to one of the stand-alone services mentioned above. Due to storage and file size limitations with my web hosting service and the Flash-based Photocrati galleries, I decided to subscribe to SmugMug Pro as the repository for my portfolio and assorted galleries. I chose SmugMug based on recommendations from other photographers, including a very positive review by Trey Ratcliff at StuckinCustoms.com, whose promo code I used to sign up for a year’s subscription at a discounted rate (thanks Trey!).
SmugMug offers an excellent resource to store (unlimited storage), share (embedded links), and even sell (prints and online usage) my work. If you click on the “Portfolio” link above, then you will be redirected to my SmugMug site. While I have yet to fully integrate my Photocrati theme into SmugMug, this capability is available, one that I intend to undertake soon.
Essentially, thads•world comprises two sites in one: 1) a blog site built on WordPress and Photocrati hosted by BlueHost; and 2) a portfolio site served and hosted by SmugMug. For me (and for now), this offers the best combination of tools and services to share and comment on my work. Hope this helps in your efforts designing or redesigning your photography site.
This is the first of a series of posts on photographs I took decades ago, prints that I am only now scanning/digitizing using an Epson scanner and restoring/enhancing with Adobe Lightroom 3 and Photoshop CS5. I’ll be the first to admit, most of these images are not praiseworthy. My intent with these “retrospective” posts is to create a personal catalog of and commentary on the photos I captured starting in my teens and up thru my early adulthood.
In the late summer/early fall of 1991, I participated in an international work/study program in Tokyo. When the program finished, I spent another couple of months backpacking thru much of China and parts of Thailand. During my travels, I went thru a lot of film using a Nikon Nuvis 75i, an inexpensive point and shoot that I recently uncovered in a box along with some other cameras used in years past (more on that in a future post). As I made my way around Asia, I purchased a number of Fuji panoramic disposable cameras, which ended up producing some of my favorite photographs.
Here are a few of my favorite shots from Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City in Beijing. I am especially fond of the two People’s Army soldiers photo and the panoramic shot of the Chinese flag with honor guard.
And here are several images from Japan, which I converted to black and white in Lightroom 3, giving them a bit of a new twist on life, if not an even more dated appearance.
More analog prints/negatives to digitize and share in the weeks ahead…
The purpose of this site is to chronicle and share my experiences with digital imaging, most of which will be focused on photography but with some video on occasion. This site represents a significant leap forward in my efforts to share my work.
Along the way, I want to provide folks with an understanding of how my work was captured and processed, with the hope this helps others in their creative efforts. I encourage readers to post relevant and constructive comments about my approach here, as I do look forward to hearing your perspective.
Finally, for those interested in learning more about who I am and what I do, please visit my personal bio page here.
Thanks for visiting.