Archive for personal development

Photographer of the Month – Michael Orton

Posted in Photographer of the Month with tags , , , , on October 15, 2011 by sabrina

© Michael Orton

Darwin: Michael, the ‘Orton Effect’ or ‘Orton Imagery’ is now in the lexicon of photography as a creative artistic technique (whether done the old fashioned way with film or now using digital tools). I hear that soon there will be an Orton Filter in Photoshop Elements. How does it feel to have a process you refined become so popularized?

Michael: To be honest, up until a couple years ago I had no idea how widespread the use of this technique had become. The opportunity to replicate the original approach digitally, rather than with a camera and zoom lens, increased its popularity . It certainly lifts my day when I hear from someone who is using this , and who also seems to “get it”, and by get it I mean the idea behind its conception (Imitating pen and ink / watercolour technique).  As for Adobe , they contacted us and said they would like to use my name and  the effect in this falls  Photoshop Elements Version 10 . This exposure should bring our new website to an expanded audience. The website slideshow “Earth Symphony” (viewable 1080p full-screen) Is loaded with “Orton Effect” images from the beginning years to the present.

Darwin: Your new artistic direction involves motion blur with your camera. When I first heard about this I thought to myself that you would just be repeating the motion blur effects that Freeman Patterson and Andre Gallant have made popular. But I was wrong! I am impressed by how you made a technique that is relatively simple and available to anyone into your own vision. To me that is like taking a C chord on the guitar and somehow making it your own. The lesson here is to take any technique and use it to express your inner vision. How did you motion studies evolve into their current form?

Michael: I have been using camera motion , along with many other photographers , since the late 80’s, so this is not new to me. There are several examples of these, used in different ways in the book “Photographing Creative Landscapes”. This last year while away I  began to “play” again, and take this basic concept of moving the camera to a place I had not been. I had used some compound movements in the past but now I really began to explore and combine them. Things started to happen . It was  as exciting to me as seeing that first “Orton Effect” years and years ago. Every day I seemed to discover another path , to the point where I was moving the camera in two or more directions and changing focal length or focus at the same time. I started to recognize potential in subject matter that a week before I would have walked right past. I had not been this pumped in years. When I saw these images on a monitor the colours and blending where simply amazing to me. I was hooked.  Technology is great , but creativity does come first . The slideshow “Freedom” on our website is completely camera motion.

Darwin: This new motion work you are doing is so distinctive that I think we may have an ‘Orton Motion Effect’ Again I want to congratulate you on turning whatever technique you try into you own unique form of expression. What is it about your personality that so clearly brings out your voice (it isn’t those special BC mushrooms is it?).

Michael: Oddly enough I have actually asked myself this question these last few years. How did I get here?  In my case I would say  a real sense of curiosity and an inquisitive  problem solving  mindset. I am constantly questioning not only what I am seeing but what my choices are in response .  This I call my inner or creative conversation and this was the basis of the ideas put forth in “Creative Landscapes”. In my world the tools of photography are far outweighed by the multitude of choices we have in using them . At this point what pushes me on is the need to create something that surprises me, to find what I haven’t seen or done in the past. Where it goes from here , we will see. I am just grateful to pick up a camera and make it happen. ( I do spend a lot of time in the rain-soaked woods , hmmm ! )

Darwin: You have been a successful stock photography and now you are entering the fine art print market. How different are the two disciplines and which do you prefer?

Michael: Stock has been a very good ride for Mary and I . It certainly changed our lives in the monetary sense. I tried to be as creative as possible  and still produce marketable “concepts” which was no easy task. There is no doubt that this does change the way one creates imagery. With the recent swing in the stock world I have been given the freedom to return to my days of “play”, and just make images for  myself. ( Is there a better reason? ) .  Where the fine art work goes from here is something I cannot predict as the world economy is so precarious . So far we have had very encouraging responses to the new work, many saying they have not seen  comparable imagery before and that these images are more visually exciting than the “effect” from years ago.. The prints done on canvas and watercolour paper in large sizes have some amazingly intricate colour blending . I cannot believe some of the hues made possible simply by blending existing colours. We will see what happens.

Michael:  By the, funny that you should mention the C chord. Not being able to obtain / license the music / soundtracks I would have liked for the slideshows (Vangelis and Kitaro didn’t answer the phone!)  I set about creating them myself last year. I used acoustic , and electric guitars, a synthesizer, and a multitrack recording studio to lay the tracks and then mixed down from these. Since the 80’s I have loved working with what I refer to as the “third image” , the one created as two slides blend in the dissolve, and when you add music to this it becomes magic for me. If I can share only one experience I would chose these slideshows. If you can find some time to watch them in a darkened quiet room , this is as close as I can come to recreating what photography feels like to me. ~ Michael

To see more of Michael”s new work and slideshows visit his website:  www.michaelortonphotography.com

© Michael Orton

© Michael Orton

© Michael Orton

© Michael Orton

© Michael Orton

© Michael Orton

© Michael Orton

© Michael Orton

© Michael Orton

Photographer of the Month – Eric Kruszewski

Posted in Photographer of the Month with tags , , , , , on July 15, 2011 by sabrina

© Eric Kruszewski

This month I’d like to introduce you to Eric Kruszewski, an up and coming photographer from the Pacific Northwest. His work was most recently recognized by PX3 (Prix de la Photographie Paris) where he was awarded a Gold Medal for “Cowboys’ Rodeo” and a Silver Medal for “Haitian Despair”.

Darwin: Eric, from your bio it appears that you just started photographing in 2008, yet your portfolio has a richness to it that suggests someone with much more experience. Why do you think you have made such progress in developing your craft and your art when others stuggle for much longer before seeing the returns you enjoy?

Eric: While living overseas in Former Soviet Union countries and traveling to other distant places, I wanted to capture what I was so fortunate to witness and share it with family and friends in my homeland.  So in late 2008, I decided that I wanted to learn how to capture profound imagery; to do so, I participated in a hands-on photography expedition through India with three amazing professional photographers.  After soaking up information and practicing photography for the 18-day journey, I became hooked with the camera.

After returning from India, photography became an integral part of my life.  Everyday I devoted as much time as I could to some aspect of the craft – shooting, editing, reading, attending exhibitions, surrounding myself with other photographers and people who respect what I did, studying others’ work, etc.  I literally left my camera hanging on the doorknob so I could grab it as I left home.  I certainly do not know what the “normal” or “average” timeframe is for developing, and no longer struggling in the field.  Seeing progress in photography, just like with anything, comes down to working hard, having a vision, having the passion for it, embracing the received “no” and striving for the desired “yes.”  As an artist, I will always challenge myself; that, combined with dedication and hard work, motivates me to develop and hone my vision as a photographer.

Darwin: How has your “New Talent “win in the prestigious TPOTY contest affected your audience and opportunities for new ventures in photography?

Eric: The Travel Photographer of the Year “New Talent” Award was an amazing surprise for me – not only winning the award, but also communicating with the contest’s creators / organizers, fellow winning photographers and experienced judges.  Fortunately, I was able to attend the ceremony and exhibition opening in London, where so many lovers of travel and photography came together.  The contest truly was about the imagery, the story behind the pictures and the artist behind the camera.  The organizers went to great lengths in creating a top-notch website, a wonderful exhibition experience with such a high profile and reputable gallery and showcasing the images for industry personnel, the public and the press to enjoy.

Since the Travel Photographer of the Year contest was open to all international photographers, it brought together imagery and followers from all over the world.  Therefore, after winning the “New Talent” Award, there was definitely more interest in my photography and how I have developed.

Darwin: How did you manage to get access to the street people depicted in your Blocks Apart, Worlds Apart portfolio?

Eric: A photographer or passerby could come across the imagery and street people seen in my Blocks Apart, Worlds Apart story by walking down the streets and alleyways of Downtown Eastside.  One of the amazing things about “Ground Zero” in Vancouver, BC is that drug use, drug deals, prostitution and sex are practiced so openly and commonly on the streets, and they are all concentrated within several square city blocks.  Access, and getting close to the people, was accomplished by asking their permission to observe them, learn what they do and respect their practices.  I let them do their thing and they let me do mine.  Of course, there are plenty of bystanders in the streets that warn a wandering photojournalist of potential trouble while in their territory.  Fortunately I did not encounter anything serious while developing the story.

Darwin: You seem to travel extensively, how do you finance your travel photography?

Eric: I am an engineer by degree and a photographer by heart.  Since graduating from university about 10 years ago, I have been working as a mechanical engineer for an international engineering-construction company.  It was this engineering work that took me overseas to the Former Soviet Union, allowed me to travel internationally at a relatively young age and eventually drove me to begin photographing the cultures and societies in which I was immersed.

Currently, I still perform the 40-hour-a-week engineering job and spend all my free time and vacation time photographing and developing stories that motivate me.  Most times it feels as if I have two full-time jobs, and all of my family and friends support my endeavors as I continue to strive in pursuit of making the transition to full-time professional photographer.

Darwin: You are in the ‘thick of things’ with your images, making it feel as if we, the viewer, are right there on the street with the subjects you photograph. How do you achieve this narrative point-of-view?

Eric: Being around people, capturing their stories and sharing those stories captivate and motivate me as a photographer and storyteller.  In order to do this effectively, I feel that being close and intimate with the subjects is necessary; it allows me to communicate openly with them, build a rapport, truly learn the subjects and then relay their story and voice in imagery.  However, it takes trust on the subjects’ part to allow a camera into their lives and it takes trust on my part that I will be received openly, thus being able to tell the story correctly and accurately.

For most of my work, I use a lens with a short focal length.  It forces me to approach people, to concentrate on and work with main subjects that are practically within arms reach and to not worry about what is happening a mile away; I can always move and get closer.  This “in the thick of things” approach allows the viewer to feel as if they are a part of the scene and immersed in the same story that I had the privilege of witnessing.

© Eric Kruszewski

© Eric Kruszewski

© Eric Kruszewski

© Eric Kruszewski

© Eric Kruszewski

© Eric Kruszewski

© Eric Kruszewski

© Eric Kruszewski

© Eric Kruszewski

© Eric Kruszewski

© Eric Kruszewski

Some new interview links

Posted in Art of Photography, Articles about Photography, Artistic Development, Controversy, Good News, Humor, Instruction, Photography Gear, Techniques, Workshops and Seminars with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 16, 2011 by Darwin

Sam and I were lucky enough to be invited to a cool photography podcast based out of Calgary called I am Aduro. This podcast is run by Al Del Degan of Aduro Phorography and Andrew Bolton of Zombie Darkroom. We had a great time chatting and laughing with Al and Andrew. Check it out (click on the Listen Now button on the bottom of the link page) and learn what Sam really thinks of Peter Lik’s photography and why I have little respect for most Leica photographers! As well you’ll learn what it really takes to make a living at photography and the underlying theme for the show is fine art nude photography plus there are lots of cool and interesting links.

Speaking of Fine Art Nude work, check out an interview just posted where Sam and I talk about our upcoming Gaia Nudes, Nudes in the Landscape photo workshop. Click here for more.

©Darwin Wiggett

Photographer of the Month – Örvar Þorgeirsson

Posted in Inspirations, Photographer of the Month, Techniques with tags , , , , , , on June 15, 2011 by sabrina

© Örvar Þorgeirsson

Darwin: You have an eye for images that are contextual (tell a story) but are full of mood and drama and a sense of the pulsating of life. In short you are a cross between a documentary journalist and an expressionary artist. The combination is rare. What advice do you have for photographers interested in developing their own signature style?

Örvar: I believe you will get your best results photographing things that interest you in an environment that you enjoy. I started out trying to photograph various things like street photography, events and even still life but I quickly found out that landscape photography was where I enjoyed myself the most and got the best results. Looking back I think it was inevitable that I would end up in this part of the photography spectrum as the outdoors and wilderness have always fascinated me and the photography is really an extension of that. I study the work of other photographers a lot for inspiration. There are a lot of good photographers out there and getting input from the ones you like and applying it to your field of photography for the environment where you shoot will help develop your own signature style.

Darwin: You live in Iceland, which over the last decade has become the place to go for evocative landscapes. What is it about your country that appeals to so many photographers?

Örvar: I think the variety of different landscapes in a relatively small area is what makes Iceland interesting as a photographer’s destination. Volcanoes, glaciers, waterfalls, deserts, deep green valleys and rugged coastlines can be found at many places elsewhere in the world but all these features in an area the size of a small US state is what makes Iceland appealing. For most people being located in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, near the Arctic Circle is not an ideal place to be but for landscape photographers this has two major advantages.

The biggest one is probably that the turbulent weather combined with often hours of continuous low angled sun (specially around summer and winter solstice when the sun travels horizontally just under or above the horizon) creates some really colorful and interesting light on top of the scenery found here. The other one is that the open landscape of this windy island, lacking much forest, makes interesting features easily visible from a distance. These two advantages combined, will enable traveling photographers to spend more of their hard earned free time shooting and less time on hanging around waiting for the right light and finding locations. Our recent total economic meltdown also means that Iceland went from a very expensive travel destination to being affordable.

Darwin: I am sure everyone wants to know a few technical tips and making great Aurora. What camera settings, lens choice, etc. are good starting points for beginners shooting the Aurora?

Örvar: The basic technical principle behind Aurora photography is to capture as much light as your gear can without degrading your image quality too much. This means high ISO settings, larger aperture lenses and fairly long exposures. In a typical shot, I use ISO 800 at f/2.8 for 20-30 seconds. This works well for low intensity and static displays of Aurora, which are the most common ones. When things start to heat up and the Aurora really lights up and starts dancing around the sky, I shorten my exposure time as much I can, going 3 to 5 seconds to avoid blurring the Aurora by its movement during the exposure. This means that I have to increase my ISO up to 3200 on my Canon 5D MKII.

If one plans a trip to shoot Aurora then the best time is to do so during half moon. The full moon will render daytime-like light for the long exposures and the new moon makes the foreground too dark. Very wide-angled lenses with large apertures work best for Aurora shooting. I have tried many of them including Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L, Canon 14mm f/2.8L and adapted Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lenses. Although the Nikon is much better than the Canon lenses, they all suffer from bad to really bad corner sharpness at f2.8. Recently I a friend recommended I try a little known 14mm lens from Samyang. To my surprise in Aurora photography, it outperformed all the above-mentioned lenses by far. And the best part yet–at 350USD it cost only a fraction of what the Canons and Nikons do. The lens is fully manual including aperture but it does not really matter anyway for nighttime shooting. And no, I am not sponsored by Samyang.

Darwin: How many years have you been shooting? It seems like you have accomplished a large number of top tier images in a relatively short time. What’s your secret?

Örvar: I have been into photography for 5 years now. Before that, during my mountaineering years, I loved documenting my adventures through a camera but I really did not know what I was doing back then. During these years I read through hundreds of magazines and books often beautifully illustrated by mountain scenery. Unaware of it but soaking up in all those images and beautiful scenery probably helped my development as a photographer. I am also one of those that really dives into things once I get interested in them. I have put a lot of time and effort into photography during these 5 years. But also having relatively easy access to varied landscapes here in Iceland helped build my portfolio quickly.

Darwin: One part of your signature style is the dramatic use of near/far perspective. It is difficult for many photographers to make a cohesive composition with a wide-angle lens because there is so much of the environment taken in. How do you make such clean cohesive compositions with a wide-angle lens?

Örvar: This is a difficult question. As you say the wide angle grabs a lot of the environment and much of that will often be in your foreground. One therefore needs to find places with a simple foreground that does not clutter the image. Some locations work better for wide angles than others. Seascapes and water surfaces, frozen lakes, deserts, snowfields and rivers are where you most often find those uncluttered foregrounds. Most of my portfolio is from Iceland, which suits wide angles very well. I quickly run into trouble shooting wide when traveling abroad in areas with forests and heavy vegetation. So I guess it might be more the environment where I shoot mostly rather than a special skill that I have.

© Örvar Þorgeirsson

© Örvar Þorgeirsson

© Örvar Þorgeirsson

© Örvar Þorgeirsson

© Örvar Þorgeirsson

© Örvar Þorgeirsson

© Örvar Þorgeirsson

© Örvar Þorgeirsson

© Örvar Þorgeirsson

Inspirations – Confidence Man by Mark Krajnak

Posted in Inspirations with tags , , , , , , on March 13, 2011 by sabrina

© Mark Krajnak

As I like to say…. “There’s noir…and then there’s JerseyNoir.” It’s a widely held belief that New Jersey is a corrupt state. From the politicians in Trenton to the way we’re portrayed on the small screen via The Sopranos and, more recently, Boardwalk Empire. Maybe it’s our proximity to underworld scenes in New York and Philly…or maybe we really are like that…I don’t know.

What I do know, though, is that the noir genre is one of my favorite conceptual photographs to put together and shoot. Whether it’s the Man In The Fedora or a femme fatale,  it’s fun for me to harken back to the to the good ol’ days of mystery and suspense,  when a  bottle of whiskey, a pack of Lucky Strikes and a smoking gat got you through the day, though you always had to look over your shoulder.

The image above is part of my JerseyNoir series, a series of conceptual photographs I started a couple of years ago and have continued to add to. I shoot everything in color JPG/RAW and usually convert these images to black & white using Nik Silver Efex Pro. Silver Efex Pro, and its many filters, usually give me the best results when I do color-to-BW conversions. However, I decided to keep this image in color and not do the conversion.

My lighting here was extremely simple. Camera left was a simple desk lamp, the kind you can find in any homegoods store, loaded with a compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulb. No other on-camera or off-camera flash was used. The minimal post processing included just pulling up the blacks in camera RAW.

The crop here was set up in-camera, and what appeals to me about this image is the use of negative space to the left of the subject.  The constant light also bounced nicely off the polished table while illuminating the smoke from the cigarette. The positioning of the light source provided some separation between the subject and the wall, or else the dark hat would have faded into the background.

Simple but direct. Like a good noir story should be. ~Mark Krajnak

Inspirations – I think, I’m a Dreamer by Ben Goossens

Posted in Art of Photography, Inspirations, Techniques with tags , , , on February 23, 2011 by sabrina

© Ben Goossens

To make this kind of image, you have to have 40 years of crazy experience. All my life I created my own landscapes or adapted them for the concept I had in mind. In fact I seldom leave home without a camera and when I see an interesting object or subject, I shoot and I’m already thinking about what I can or will do with it.

I rarely use or present a one shot image. I will always bring my “personal touch”….it’s a professional disease…lucky it doesn’t hurt too much. What I make now is a logic follow-up from what I did as an Art Director in advertising where surrealism was a source of inspiration for the national and international visual concepts. One object or subject can give me inspiration to add something else to create my personal image, in which I always try to tell MY story. Many call me the R. Magritte or Dali of photography–those “crazy surreal” images are already edited worldwide. Some hate them; others like them very much, so?

All images used are from my personal stock which is a culmination of 40 years of work—a full 1 TB hard drive. For this image the man was shot on the street. Once I had extracted him, I wanted to make him different and surreal. So I got rid of his face and did some airbrush technique to restore the collar and of course I needed it to be on a nature background. As I had no fitting background, I started with a grass shot and added two (2) fitting sky shots all from my stock. One of the sky images were added in overlay to create more movement and I also did a lot of color adjustment with PhotoShop. For the composition and depth, I added the birds and tree and created a shadow under the tree, making sure the birds started from his eyes. Once all in place and color adjusted, I added a texture layer, on blending mode soft light, to give it a painterly feeling. On a new layer, I painted with the airbrush tool, some soft colors and reduced the layer opacity till satisfied.

This image is my “avatar image” because that’s how feel and how I had to be in my profession as an Art Director. ~Ben Goossens

Photographer of the Month – Harold Davis

Posted in Art of Photography, Artistic Development, Books about Photography, eBooks, Photographer of the Month, Techniques with tags , , , , , , , on February 15, 2011 by sabrina

© Harold Davis

Darwin: You have left a record of your work as digital photographer on the net showing your progression and evolution from your first posts on your blog in 2005.  Many photographers want to leave an impression that they only ever created amazing stuff. Showing some early misses takes courage in my opinion and shows someone secure in who they are. But do you ever feel ‘exposed’ at times when people see your earlier work, work that may not meet your standards of today?

Harold: I have made a conscious decision to leave my original photos and stories up on the Internet from the time I began as a digital photographer in 2005 (by the way, this was a return to photography for me). As your question suggests, this was not entirely an easy decision because some of my early digital work is definitely not up to my current standards. Here’s my thinking about why I have left this work up.

First, in my role as an educator—both as a writer and workshop leader—it is important to me to give aspiring photographers a sense of hope. It serves a great educational role to let people know that some of my earliest digital work wasn’t as good as it might have been, and that I’ve managed to get a great deal better. If I can improve, so then can they.

Actually, when I look back at the early work in my blog I see a lot to like. Even with the pieces that don’t stand the  test of time so well, I can see what I was trying to achieve, and I understand why I was trying to achieve it. Generally, I fall in and out of love with my own work. You can’t make a photo unless you are infatuated  with your pre-visualization of it, otherwise why bother? But looking at the image later, I’ll find myself not so happy with it. A while later again, I reach a synthesis—and can begin to evaluate my work more objectively.

The truth is that no one is good all the time, this goes for the great masters of photography as well as anyone else. No matter how good a photographer is, if you look at some of their early or minor work, it may not be as great as some more mature work, so I am in good company.

The minute I start believing that everything I do is great is the minute I’ll lose it as an artist—because that is an expectation that is impossible, makes one not want to experiment, and is grandiose. If I see a large body of consistent work from a photographer without any examples that are wild and wacky and don’t quite work, then I think that this is someone who is talented but who hasn’t experimented or played enough. Some of my best and most innovative work comes from failed experiments.

I’m not concerned with always doing great work every time, as much as learning how to get better.

I think of my blog stories—and I have written several a week every week since 2005—as my artistic journal, or Daybook in the sense that Edward Weston kept a Daybook but updated for the electronic era. Not everything in a journal is going to be great art, but it will show my progress and thinking.

I believe that digital photography is an entirely new art form, perhaps as different from film photography as film photography was from realistic painting. We are only at the very beginning of this new medium, and only beginning to grapple with the questions, techniques, methodologies, philosophic issues, and image-making possibilities that this new medium brings to the table. The images in my blog, along with the broader spectrum of images in my Flickr photostream, are a record of my coming to terms with these issues—and even if my attitude has changed, and my technical astuteness has improved since my first attempts to grapple with them, I don’t want to delete the account of my journey to where I am now.

At the end of the day, my work, like all visual art, must speak for itself. If someone “gets” what my work is about, then I don’t think the fact that I’ve included shots of my family, out-takes from assignments, and early experiments on my blog will detract from it. My model of professionalism is to include some of my personal story, and not to pretend that the two are entirely separate.

Darwin: You have developed a technique you call ‘HDR by Hand’ where you process a single RAW file with various settings and combine the resulting images into a single finished image. The results are unique and impressive. Can you give us a quick overview of your workflow for HDR by Hand? Do you have a book or eBook people can go to to learn more details?

Harold: Another great question, but there is some confusion in the way it is put. Let me try to clarify things. I use the term multi-RAW processing to describe processing a single RAW file multiple times with various different exposure settings to effectively expand the dynamic, or exposure, range of the final processed image. Some people consider this technique a form of HDR—or High Dynamic Range—photography, because it certainly produces an expanded dynamic range compared to the JPEG that your camera makes. However, I believe that true HDR begins when you combine multiple captures of the same subject that have been bracketed for exposure.

With automated HDR software such as Photomatix, Photoshop’s Merge to HDR Pro, or the new Nik HDR tool, these bracketed exposures are blended together, and a tone curve is applied. In contrast, what I do is to manually inspect the captures made at different exposures, and then choose the parts of each one that I want, and combine the “good bits” in Photoshop. For example, I might want the dark part of an image from the capture shot at 1/10 of a second (to lighten dark areas) and the light part of an image from the capture shot at 1/200 of a second (to darken the light areas), assuming all other settings were the same.

With both techniques—multi-RAW and hand-HDR—I put together the different versions as layers in Photoshop using layer masks, the Gradient Tool, and the Brush Tool to combine the different capture and/or RAW conversions. Sometimes I’ll use different blending modes to emphasize the impact of a particular exposure shift.

As with all HDR shots, it does tend to work better if your camera and subject don’t move between the different captures.

As a practical matter, many of my final images are created using a combination of the multi-RAW and hand-HDR techniques. I might make two or three different interpretations of a single RAW file, then blend these versions with interpretations from one or more other RAW files.

For me, learning that I could multi-RAW process a file, and then extending these techniques to bracketed HDR files, was a huge revelation. If you look on my blog, you’ll find that I began experimenting with multi-RAW in mid 2006. By August 2007, I’d come “to the conclusion that combining images and image variants is something that humans do better than software (at least for the time being),” and around the same time I began experimenting with hand-HDR to move beyond natural-looking landscapes with an extended tonal range to special hand-HDR effects such as creating a transparent, high-key effect.

My discovery of multi-RAW and hand-HDR caused a real shift in the way I think about shooting, because very often each shot becomes a piece of the final image rather than the image itself. It’s also powerful to realize that you can change other things besides exposure—such as White Balance and Saturation—when you process separate versions. I don’t think I could go back to single-shot photography, and I really don’t want to rely on software to make the decisions for me about how to process and blend the pixels.

My two Photoshop books, The Photoshop Darkroom: Creative Digital Processing and The Photoshop Darkroom 2: Creative Digital Transformations (both from Focal Press) detail both multi-RAW and hand-HDR techniques. Since this process is so integral to my photography, you’ll find it explained at some level in almost all my recent books. The forthcoming Creative Lighting: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley) explains how to apply multi-RAW and hand-HDR to change the apparent lighting in a photo, and my Creative Landscapes (also from Wiley, due out in June 2011) will explain these techniques in the context of landscape photography.

Darwin: You are an author of numerous books on photography. What was your first book and how did you manage to get the book contract?  Your books have great reviews on Amazon. What does it take to make a book that resonates with photographers?

Harold: When people I don’t know ask me what I do for a living, I tell them that I am a professional photographer and a writer. I have written books on many diverse topics other than photography, and had a good reputation as a writer long before I took up digital photography in 2005. The first photography book I wrote came about because of my reputation as a writer about technology, not as a photographer. In fact, I had to overcome a certain suspicion in the publishing industry about whether I could really be a good professional photographer in addition to my skills as a technologist.

A good book agent is an invaluable ally in the publishing industry, and Matt Wagner has played that role for me. We’ve worked together for many years. Another secret weapon is my wife, Phyllis Davis. She is an excellent professional book designer, and we work together on most projects, so we deliver finished InDesign files to the publisher rather than going through a normal edit and design workflow and production process.

I listen with a great deal of respect to my readers, and have an affirmative commitment to responding to every email that is about photography. I greatly appreciate questions from readers because they are a signal to me that I may not have been clear enough about something, or that there is additional subject matter that should be included in one of my books.

Ultimately, my photography books are valuable to an audience if readers can learn from them and apply what they learn to their own work. I am dedicated to the idea that my books primarily play an educational role. I also believe that one largely learns about photography and image making by looking at images and analyzing how and why they were made. So this is the thought process that I try to encourage in my books, and I try to provide imagery that is inspirational so that people actually want to take the steps that are involved in making comparable photos.

Darwin: Given the rise of eBooks on the internet, do you think that traditional photo books will slowly disappear? Given that photographers can make 100% profit on eBooks why should a photographer deal with a publisher to create a hard copy book and get maybe only 10% royalties?

Harold: I think eBooks are a great development. I’ve been experimenting with reading books on the Kindle and the iPad, and will be releasing some electronic publications in 2011 and beyond. However, I do not believe that printed and published photography books will disappear, nor do I think the economics and business issues are as cut-and-dried as the 100% profit versus 10% royalties in your question would seem to make it. Let me elaborate.

It doesn’t make much sense to me to read a color photography book on black-and-white Kindle reader. There are also formatting issues, mostly having to do with eBook photo and caption placement. This kind of thing will get ironed out eventually, particularly if readers start insisting on decent design in their e-Books. But personally, I still prefer a printed book, particularly if images are involved. Image placement is exactly the way the author intended, I can take it anywhere, and I don’t have to worry about connectivity. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean one should do it, and I don’t think it really makes sense to view photos on small screens. The iPad is the first device that really comes close for me, but there really aren’t authoring tools available that let me translate my vision easily to this medium. The bottom line: books that are like manuals and just there to provide information will gravitate to electronic form. There has to be an added value to be worth making a physical book, but for the foreseeable future I expect there to be a viable place for visually-oriented books that are about more than which menu item one should click.

The profit from an eBook is not 100% if you sell it through Amazon, iTunes, or an eBook publisher. For that matter, there is cost involved in setting up one’s own shopping cart and distribution mechanism. On the other side, the royalty on a printed book can be substantially greater than 10%.

But the point remains valid that electronic publishing can disintermediate the entire chain of book agents, publishers, printers, book distribution companies, and brick-and-mortar bookstores—with a greater percentage of the proceeds going to the individuals who created the product. However, my books are distributed in a way that eBooks are not—for example, to Barnes & Nobles—and translated into languages all over the world. In other words, there’s a much bigger pie to split.

There’s nothing like the aesthetic pleasure of holding a book one has created—and there is considerable professional validation in publication through traditional trade houses.

Darwin: You seem to be able to photograph any subject and do it extremely creatively. You have your own vision and style which comes through in your photos. Any tips on ‘developing a personal style’ that you learned over the years?

Harold: Inspiration is not a “tame lion.” There’s no single magic bullet that will change someone into being a creative photographer. In fact, working too hard at being creative can be a good way to thwart one’s own creative drives. After all, photography is wonderfully fun—and it is important not to lose your sense of fun about it.

It’s good to sneak up on the creative process—I often find that my best work is not in the direction that I expected when I started a project, and part of being creative is learning to be open to serendipity and unexpected directions.

Experiment! Experiment! It is a big mistake to take oneself too seriously. Not everything you do has to be worthy of museum placement.

Specialization is overrated. Having a good eye, some interesting things to say, and understanding the craft of photography are the most important aspects of any kind of photography. These kinds of traits carry across subject matter. After all, no one would complain that Edward Weston was spreading himself too thin because he photographed still life subjects as well as nudes.

I appreciate assignments and projects that stretch my limits. A number of times I’ve accepted assignments, and there was a fear factor, meaning I wondered for a while whether I could really complete the creative work because it was something I hadn’t done before. A little fear is good, and helps stimulate my creative juices. Each of these projects turned out to point me in a new direction, and helped me add to my skill set. So if you don’t have the outside stimulus that comes from commissioned work, then I suggest that you self-assign. These self assignments should stretch your boundaries and make you work in areas and directions that are new to you.

© Harold Davis

© Harold Davis

© Harold Davis

© Harold Davis

© Harold Davis

© Harold Davis

© Harold Davis

© Harold Davis

© Harold Davis

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