Growing up, my family had an almost quarterly family party. It would go from home to home amongst the family, usually focusing around birthdays. My one aunt, a marvelous baker made fabulous cakes. My dad would bar-b-que amazing meat. We’d swim in the pool, play volleyball and badminton and then when it got dark, the slide projector would come out, the 5×5 screen set up and everyone would grab a piece of floor. Then for the next couple of hours we’d look at photos of parties past and laugh until our sides hurt. When all over, we’d hug, dry our eyes, pack the cars and set the date and location for the next get together.
In between those parties on many a weekend eve, in our home the projector would be out and we would relive family vacations, holidays and occasions. With little goading, my dad who carried his Argus with him all during WWII & Korea, would pull out those old slides and tell his stories. For over twenty years, even after I started to contribute to the nighttime show, that’s how photography in our home was always treasured. It was all about memories, stories and then more memories. It is still that way to this day for Sharon & I especially now as we get a little older and the photo serves to fill in some of those details that some of our newer adventures have covered up. And I think that’s really the treasure of photography, memories!
Yes, the pursuit of photography for the technical, the art, the advertising and the ego are all very valid reasons to jump through all the hoops we go through as photographers. But if you’re anything like me, those photographs which are the most treasured are those that are not only good photographs, but ones that have memories which are the sweetest, best and more treasured. Perhaps that’s why when the photograph doesn’t turn out as good as we hoped we are disappointed. It might tarnish the memory?
And we can easily swap the word memory with history to give some of our images the more importance. All you have to do is watch a Ken Burns special and you realize just how important photographs are to our history and our memory of history. But there is one big difference between the photograph that is history and the other memory, and that’s the emotional attachment we have to the photograph that forever records a memory, a moment in time.
We’d literally just gotten off the boat on our B&H / Lexar / Circle Line / Moose NYC cruise when Howard said, “I’ve got dinner reservations, need to get to the cars.” It had been a long, great day. I was tired, grimy and wanted to get back and put my feet up and look at my images, those basic photographer things. But Howard is such a great guy and we so enjoy spending time with him, it was a no-brainer just to go along and besides, he was like a kid on Christmas morning so we knew he had something up his sleeve. Next thing I knew, I was wearing a suit jacket from the River Café loan closet and sitting at the most magnificent table with the most magnificent view of Lower Manhattan you can imagine!
Normally, you have to make a reservation months in advance but Howard worked his magic so we had a great table this evening. Located at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge Tower, the River Café was built in a floating barge. The first time we felt the movement of the barge, we had no clue what it was because we didn’t know we were on a barge. Me being me, I asked our waitress (we already had a thing going) who chuckled and told me we were on a barge. Every boat that went by, you could feel the swell rock us. It was cool!
We were there with our good friend including Jeff Cable who, like I, had come to the table with our cameras and knowing it would be a long time until we would be back here again, shot like silly tourists. And having fun, I would hit the shutter release on the D4 and just let it rip. I love folk’s expression when they hear that. Jay Maisel is a wise man and his advice to always have your camera with you is very sound. I sure was this night!
Four nights later, Super Storm Sandy came through and as we all know with devastating destruction, changing the lives of many. One of the casualties of Sandy is the River Café. Howard just passed along the word to us that it will be no more. Not only is an unique piece of NYC history gone, but all those who made it so special are now no longer a working family bringing so much delight to so many others.
That evening lives on though, in our minds, our hearts and thank goodness, our photographs. The memories of the friendship, the laughs, the food, the atmosphere and of course the magnificent view can be relived in those images. Yes, I used a D4 and raised the ISO with the 24f1.4 to make the images. Those technical aspects of the photography helped preserve the memories, but only more cleanly, more succinct. But it wasn’t needed because the heart would have filled in any missed detail, brighten any darkness. And that is because photography is all about the recording of memories, which are an emotional response to our daily lives. And perhaps that’s why I shoot do damn much, I am so fortunate to have so many good memories. And as we all know, memories are not perfect which is why stressing over the perfect photograph isn’t important to making it great. Howard & River Cafe and its staff, thanks ever so much for the memories! Photographs, they really serve another very important purpose.
When it comes to learning a new location, walking works great. Ya, takes more time and you don’t cover as much ground but personally I tend to see more and think of more potential photographs that way. So when up in Spokane a week ago, it was a brisk morning, perfect for a walk downtown. Now Spokane is all new to me, driving through and stopping only for gas once doesn’t count as a visit. So with my girl by my side and D600 / 24f1.4AFS on my shoulder, off we strolled. I was totally blown away by the first thing we came across, Spokane Falls! This place is cool! We walked completely around its parameter and spent some time on the bridge that crosses the Spokane River. I had no idea this really great falls existed. And the power house, is that a sweet structure or what? The 24f1.4 was the wrong lens, not for the focal length but aperture since it doesn’t close down much. Even shooting in L1 didn’t get me a slow enough shutter speed to do much with the water. I’ll be back to work this falls again!
Just a block away from the falls is the spectacular Review Building built in 1890. I love photographing architecture, wish I could have made money at it as the Review Building really makes me wanna pursue it. The photograph didn’t take much to make happen. I moved laterally to get the sun reflection off the window you see shooting with the lens totally closed down for the sunburst. While working on that, I worked on getting the reflected light on the street in the foreground. Then simply lined up the lines the best I could and went click. The finished photo was a simple Silver Efex Pro conversion. There’s a lot more to discover in Spokane, good thing Brent has a spare room
“I was reading on the web…” was the start to an email over the weekend. That’s always a HUGE red flag to me. But in the process of learning about photography, reading is definitely part of the equation. The problem comes though when website A says black and website B says white and you’re stuck in the middle wondering which is right. And more importantly, which is right for YOUR photography! When you’re starting out or even further down the road, where do you turn to find the answers?
“Your images all look dark!” This was a comment made about my prints at our recent Photo Bi$ class. And the observer was right. He wasn’t talking about the printing job but rather that the majority of the tones in my photos are on the subdued side. You could generalize that the majority of my images are technically, underexposed. And if you look at the entire body of my photography over the last three decades, you’d see that same thing runs true through all my images. That’s how I like them.
How did I start out more or less with the underexposure “style” that I still use today? Back in the day when I started, there was no Internet but there was this great resource called books. I love to read but photography books in my day were mostly photos, short on words. I learned to look at photographs, look for those aspects I liked and then figure out how it was accomplished. This was a training that has served me well, one I still use to this day. In this process, I constantly found myself pulled to the “darker” images. The color, mystery, the use of space, the importance of light and bright to me was obvious as a simple yet effective tool to visually communicate. And since I was seeing images like this in print, from masters, then to me it was obvious. This was a style that worked.
Are there possibly technical drawbacks to this style? Of course, and who cares! Other photographers in their very normal insecure style will happily point out all the technical issues. The general public though, the mass consumer of images doesn’t give a rats ass! They will simply vote thumbs up or thumbs down with the flip of a page. What they look for in a photo is education and entertainment, not noise or that other stuff you’re constantly told you need to worry about. Put a smile on a viewer’s face and you can even have a photograph not tack sharp. It doesn’t matter, you created the smile, that’s all that matters!
Still comes back though to the issue…how DO YOU arrive to that point? Reading is always good but make sure you combine that with looking at photographs. I’m talking really looking and looking at just as many images in print as on the web. Keep in mind that many of the images on the web have had no filter, they are just put up because the person likes the photo. But those images in print have gone through a very important filter, the editor. It is those folks who have taught many of us what works and what doesn’t work and why. Their knowledge and expertise in what reaches the masses successfully is a very important learning tool that ultimately is the best way to learn about photography. So, no matter what you read or someone tells you, remember it’s YOUR photography!
Sharon & I had a great weekend with the folks over at FotoClave. We’ve presented for them many times over the years and it was fun to see old friends and make new. Though I knew of Darrel Gulin, this past weekend I had the opportunity to not only see his killer images, but get to know him. That was really cool! So on our drive back home (which takes us through Yosemite), we go through the small town of Groveland. I don’t know how many hundreds of times we’ve traveled through this great little town but we’ve never stopped. We keep saying we’re going to, we never do. Today, we made the time to stop. With D600 and 24f1.4AFS on my shoulder, I took my girl’s hand and walked through town.
We stopped in the Iron Door Saloon, the oldest bar in California to take a look. It appeared so cool and we were greeted with smiling faces, we took a seat. It’s a great place, good food, great ale and really nice folks. And the ambience inside is killer! After reading the story on the back of the menu, we started to look at the walls and reading all the history there. Then we started to look at the ceiling which had even more history. And the whole time, the camera was there. It was great to have a moment with my wife alone, just the two of us to do what we do best, watch life pass by. Had to have that photo!
And this is just one slice of the interior of Iron Door Saloon. Not that any of these photos are really blog worthy, they are just nice snaps of a simple yet grand experience. They recorded for all time a time when we stopped and smelled the roses, ale actually and just watched life float by. It’s what photography’s original intent was all about, to record what we feel are special moments in our lives. It’s easy to get caught up in the technical stuff to making a photo, the artistic stuff to make a photo, but there are times we must remember the simple life experiences the camera is great at recording when we only have to get caught up in the experiences of life.
I’m not sure what I enjoy more, photographing flowing water or, listening to the water as I’m photographing it. Whatever the case, I do enjoy it. The process of capturing flowing water, I illustrated a few weeks ago and it hasn’t been modified so far since then. And when it comes to time spent at a location, the reason why I park at times in one location for so long I expressed in this post. And while what I want to talk about now, I’ve taked about before, I wanted to elaborate on a bit more by telling the story of one afernoon. Much of what I want to talk about is summed up in this photo.
This is Flume Gorge in the White Mountains, NH. During our K&M Adventures a couple of weeks ago, we ventured to the Gorge the first time in the mid afternoon. The light was OK at best but the crowds, oh my lord! There wasn’t a place to wedge a pixel into! We didn’t stop, we just kept on driving to another gorgeous locale.
The next day, all bundled up to embrace the cold, we headed over to the Cog Railroad to get a ride to the top of Mt Washington. A great ride, we were really looking forward to it. We got there to see the cloud ceiling getting lower, the winds higher, snow blustering and the railroad only running 3/4 up the mountain. After shooting around the railroad for an hour, we packed it in and went back down the mountain. The light was dark, it was raining by the time we got down the mountain. The choice was either head back to the lodge or….I said let’s go back to the Flume. Off we went. We arrived 30min later about an hour before sunset (though we couldn’t see the sun) to a basically empty parking lot. Up the hill we went. It was raining, foggy, empty and gorgeous in the gorge! The story doesn’t lie here either
The higher we climbed into the gorge, the more we got into the clouds and the more gorgeous it all became. With that rain, there wasn’t a dry rock to be found anywhere (dry rocks suck) and the color in them was spectacular! We got up to the Flume proper and the magic was happening everywhere we turned. It just goes to show, the worst weather can produce the best photography. That’s still not the point.
The group sets up their tripods, we dialed in our exposures (these are 5sec blurs) and we had just settled down to shoot this unbelievable scene before us when…the hords show up! Seriously, I felt like I was in Africa when the Water Buffalo are crossing the river as the hords of people just kept going by! The tripods were vibrating off the bridge! Where in the hell did they come from? The light levels were falling, we didn’t have the luxury of time, what do you do? I just kept shooting and shooting and shooting. I knew some images would be soft, even deleted some in camera knowing when I pushed the shutter release they would be soft. Heck, in the top image, you can see ghosts of the folks walking right through the exposure. And still I kept shooting and loving every moment of it! Photographic opportunities like the one we were experiencing don’t happen everyday. I was shooting with my best friend making some rather crud but poignant jokes about our situations and listening to the roar of the Flume shooting some images I loved.
And that’s the point! When it’s raining, your shoot goes down the drains and you’re having to make lemonade, even after finding success at that you still find yourself in less that ideal shooting conditions, you still find joy in that moment behind the camera. It’s hard at times when you’ve invested so much in finding that moment behind the camera only to have something “spoil” it. But you’ve still gotta enjoy that moment. Because not everyone gets to do it, we are fortunate we can scratch out that moment. And while I couldn’t believe the misfortune of that hord descending upon us, it did make me smile to watch them in the rain, enjoy being out in our wild heritage. I’m a firm believer the photos will happen when they are meant to happen and not before. It’s our mission to be there when they do and then celebrate that moment with others in the images we do capture! That’s shooting the flume!
“OH NO…NOT YOU!” That’s the greeting Marshall Joe gave me as I stepped off the bus for our NAPP Safari. I guess you could say I made an impression on him our last visit. I like Marshall Joe, he loves to laugh. And, he loves to play the straight man with a gun. We had great clouds but to get them behind Marshall Joe, had to shoot up on him. Well, he’s not real tall so we got him up on a four foot rock and than shot up on him with the clouds in the background. D4, 24-70AFS with light is a simple Trigrip Gold reflector. A real simple click of a really nice guy!
Just finishing up an amazing week at Photoshop World. It’s a place that if you’re a person like me, you garner from the participants an overwhelming sense of what you’re doing as a photographer is alright. That what you’re saying with a camera is reaching out an tugging at heartstrings invoking in others either simple awe or more importantly, the desire to them to go out and do the same thing, that’s really the whole point of Photoshop World. To empower others to go out, be creative, share the world they explore visually and in that process, change the world. That’s why I think we should be photographers!
No one starts out in this position though. And here lies the problem and why I think so many want their images “reviewed” or “critiqued.” It a huge part of validation some say, knowing they are on the right track is what others says. On the crits forms we were provided at Portfolio Review and Photoshop World there was a category left blank for the photographer to fill in. I was really intrigued when all but one of my critters filed it in as…aspiring. Where is it we’re trying to get with photography or more importantly, where is it we want our photography to take us?
Here, there is a lot of talk of f/stops and shutter speeds, light, composition (a well warn and misunderstood word if there ever was one) and gear….lots of gear! I decided this time at Photoshop World, I would change up some of the words, phrases and concepts I have used in the past when asked to review images. I’ve seen thousands of images this week and the vast majority were really good images. Some were simply amazing! And in the process of giving comments, I adopted one key word for every image I saw, no matter or weak or strong. That word is heart!
At first, each photographer gave me this quisical look when I said heart, their photograph needed more heart. And for each photographer, each image the heart I was referring to was never the same. One image might have need for feeling for the light. Another image might have needed more love for the subject. Another might have needed the heart to hit the delete key. My goal was pretty simple, to get the photographer to put enough emotion, heart into their photograph that the viewer can’t help but feel it. And that get’s to the heart I think of where most what from their photography.
Creatives, visual folks are always wearing their heart on their sleeve which is why some are so easily crushed when their photograph doesn’t work. But what is it we are really striving for, what am I striving for when I put an image out? Why do photographers when they post an image Facebook or G+ look at the comments all day, foregoing other work they should be doing? We’re all looking for acceptance! We are looking to see is our vision of our world excites others.
Once we have that acceptance, photography just seems to get better. Light not so hard, f/stop not as scary and sharing our images, not so terrifying. And that’s where I want you to be right now, without going through all of that other stuff. You can do that simply, like your photos! There is no right or wrong or better and worse. Understand that means that what, you’re photography will always get better. That means you’re always learning and that’s the process of every photographer, past, present and future. The photography you are producing right now is great and it will be better. With that understanding, you can now move forward because what we are all seeking, acceptance!
“My kids just started back to school so my next few weeks and weekends, I’m stuck at home. What do I shoot?” Just received an email with this question and man, is it all too real! I remember that time when my boys started at school and I wanted to stay home the first few weeks to be there for all that new, school stuff. Taking off for a weekend to shoot just wasn’t possible and being the end of August, there just wasn’t a lot out my window to photograph. It’s times like this I go outside my comfort zone, if for just two weeks out of the year with my photography. It’s now I raid my local florist and find a posse to photograph. It’s no secret I hate photographing wildflowers. I just don’t like sticking my ass in the air as I bend over to wait for a flower to stop moving to take its photo (I have the utmost respect for those who do it well). So I buy a flower and bring it home and set up a studio to take it’s portrait. And I light it with a minimum of two flashes, making it a real challenge. The idea is real simple, with total control, make the uncommon out of the common. You could easily sum it up with Jay Maisel’s mantra, Light, Gesture, Color. In the case of this rose, there are 3 flashes being used, 2 SB-R200 & 1 SB-900 (with a 70-180 lens). The SB-R200 have DIY light modifiers and they are the main light on the right and left of the rose and the SB-900 has a snoot for the leaves. No, I didn’t place the rose and go click the first time and get the shot, it took a half an hour to fine tune it but what you see here is the photo right out of the camera. And doing this once a year I can handle so now, I’m good until next August. If you’ve not put yourself through this
hell challenge, it might be the time to give it a go!
our photography is real simple…..
I am sure that you receive hundreds if not thousands of emails from people all around the world asking you for things. This is not one of those emails. I am not sure that given your busy schedule you may not even have an opportunity to read mine, but I wanted to send this to you to say thanks. For what you are probably asking. Simply put Moose, your willingness to share your knowledge, your work and skill with those of us that enjoy America’s wild heritage and vast landscapes. It is inspiring to the next generation of us who love the outdoors. I don’t have the means to travel to all the locations that I would like to photograph, but I really do feel a connection to your work and it makes me feel as if I have visited the place or that I have seen it with my own eyes even though in reality I have not. I have read your books and I visit your blog for insights on various techniques and even though I have not had the privilege of meeting you personally Moose, your writings and videos are crafted in such a fun and carefree way that makes all I think who watch, feel as if they know you.
I really strive to apply the lessons that you have learned to my own photography and really enjoy the story telling part of photography. The gratifying thing for me Moose is that my daughter, who is 10 is getting the photography bug and I could not be happier. She caught it by watching me and by looking at the pictures posted on your blog. I think it would be easy to sometimes forget how influential one person can be on another. My daughter and I have always been close. She is a real “Daddy’s girl” and loves coming outside to shoot and watch nature. Without babbling to much Moose, I just want to once again say thanks for the gift, and yes you do have gift, of storytelling through you pictures. It has impacted my life in such a positive way and for that I am grateful.
My daughter wanted to attach these pictures I had taken in our backyard. I am still working on the clean background and I am looking to add some fill flash on the pictures as well.
God Bless Moose,
YOU can change the world with your photography…don’t know how…here’s just one way!