August Wallpaper Calendar

August 1st came and went, but August 2nd is a better day anyway. It’s my son Scott’s birthday – a national holiday in my family! For the calendar, a day late and a dollar short will have to do. I will happily refund your money if you are not completely satisfied!

I’ve got a number of essay ideas floating around in my head and will have at least one of them on paper for the upcoming deadline for the next CNPA newsletter. With any luck it will end up as a blog post. So stay tuned!

This month’s photograph is from a visit last year to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It was taken at Currituck Heritage Park near Corolla, North Carolina.

July Wallpaper Calendar

This month’s image is one of those where I knew I had something when I made the photograph, but it got lost in the shuffle and just recently got rediscovered. This is an early morning shot along the Blue Ridge Parkway near Waynesville, NC. It was shot last summer while on a workshop with Les Saucier. I’ve been wanting to get back to these images for a while and just managed to get one worked up in time for this month. I hope you enjoy looking at it as much as I do!


I was just reading a post on Kirk Tuck’s blog about gear choices for going on vacation. The usual dilemma – how much stuff does someone need to take on whatever kind of trip they’re taking. And since I’m going on vacation – yes, again! – in just a few days it’s a subject on my mind. I’ve had this internal discussion before, and have managed to get myself down to a nice small kit that doesn’t take up much room, gets me the pictures I plan to get but doesn’t involve carrying my 40-pound ThinkTank roller through the airport, only to to have to check it on the jetway.

When I was shooting film I had a Mamiya 7 with the 50, 65 and 150, which roughly equates to a 24, 35 and 75 in 35mm terms. And I rarely used the 50. I long to regain that simplicity in a digital outfit, but it finally dawned on me that a body and a reasonable zoom would just about cover me. So until I decide to spring for an M9 and a pocketfull of Leica glass I’ve been traveling with my 40D and 24-105. It’s a little clunky but it’s what I’ve got. And it fits in the little shoulder bag that I used to carry my Mamiya in. Why the 40D? With “only” 10 megapixels there’s little to no chance I’ll fill up all my cards in a week, so I can leave the laptop at home and enjoy cocktail hour actually doing cocktails instead of backing up files! It’s the only camera I have with built-in sensor cleaning so I don’t have to worry about taking all the cleaning stuff with me. Lastly, the “crop factor” of the 40D gives me enough reach with the 24-105 that I’m not tempted to bring the 70-200, which seems to help me avoid the inevitable “as-long-as-I” syndrome. As in “as-long-as-I’m taking the bigger lens I’ll need the bigger bag and as long as I’m taking the bigger bag I might as well take the…” You get the idea.

One camera, one lens. Maybe the 17-40 if I think I’m going to miss the wide end, and the G9 and a Ziploc bag for going to the beach. Cards, batteries, chargers and a polarizer and I’m there. For support I’ll always take my T-Pod, and if there’s room after I’m done packing clothes I may throw in a monopod. If I’m really lucky and have a couple of pounds to spare I’ll take my tripod, but probably not.

And none of that daily posting to Facebook stuff. I’m on vacation – that can wait!

SoFoBoMo 2010

SoFoBoMo stands for Solo Photo Book Month, and is a fun way to motivate yourself to do a project. I participated last year and am doing it again this year.

During any 30-day period between June 1 and July 31 you take the photographs, lay them out in a book format and publish them as a .PDF book and if you wish as a print-on-demand book through Blurb, Lulu or one of the many other POD publishers. Lulu and Blurb seem to be the most popular. Last year I published mine on Lulu and someone actually bought one!

I had come up with a really good idea for this year’s theme but my plans didn’t work out so I’ve decided to hold that thought for another year. What I’ve decided to do should still be interesting. I’m excited about it and looking forward to giving it a go.

Kathy & I leave July 3 for a cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas. What I’m planning to do is photograph people taking pictures. A cruise should offer plenty of subject matter! I’ve got some ideas about how to make that interesting, so we’ll see how it goes. The primary thing for me is the exercise of shooting and creating a project. I’ll do my best, and regardless of the outcome it will be a lot of fun and a great learning experience.

Look for my book on Blurb some time in early August!

Paper Testing and June Wallpaper

When I bought my new printer late last year one of the things I intended to do early on was to try out a number of papers and eventually settle on one or two that I really liked and learn how to make the best possible prints from those papers. I spent the last several months working with some Lexjet paper I got “free” with my printer along with several papers I had laying around the house. My “go-to” paper has been Crane’s MuseoMAX paper. I originally discovered MuseoMAX paper from print guru Gary Kerr at Fine Art Impressions, who used it on a couple of custom prints he made for me. It’s a very nice paper, with a smooth matte surface that holds sharpness and color like a glossy paper. The best of both worlds in many ways.

Over this past winter I took a fine art printing class from Les Saucier, who had recently begun using Hahnemuhle’s Fine Art Baryta paper. In his class I made a print of my own using this paper, which I found to be very nice. I had also read about a new paper from Canson called Canson Infinity Baryta Photographique that was said to be very nice. A few articles placed it higher than the Hahnemuhle in terms of print quality. So I ordered some 8.5×11 sheets of the Hahnemuhle and the Canson and proceeded to make test prints on all the paper in my storage cabinet. I must say that – despite my relatively basic knowledge of the art of printing – the Canson paper blows me away. Amazing shadow detail, all the way to the deepest blacks, excellent color and sharpness, and a nice white surface that really makes for a fine print.

I’m still going to use the MuseoMAX as well, as I like the matte surface and warm tone of that paper for certain photographs, but the the Canson is my new favorite. I just ordered a bunch of it from Shades of Paper and can’t wait to start making prints with it. Great stuff! Once I’ve had some time with it I’ll start thinking about custom profiles.

It’s a day early, but here is the June wallpaper calendar for those of you who collect it. The Place to Be in June is Roan Mountain, and this is an image from last year’s visit there. A beautiful blue sky and lovely rhododendron make a great representation of June in the Southeast. Enjoy!

Home Again and May Wallpaper

Just got back from a lovely week on the high seas…a 6 night cruise on Royal Princess followed by a couple of nights in Hollywood Beach, FL. This was a vacation week so I didn’t take my good gear but managed to get a few grab shots with the G9. I’ve got some fodder for a couple of blog posts and will get them downloaded from my brain over the next week or so and will post them along with a few photos. For now it’s back to the banking grindstone for a few weeks.

I remembered to do the May calendar before I left, so here it is, only a few days late! The image is from a last May and was taken along the Boone Fork from the Tanawha Trail, Blue Ridge Parkway near Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina. Enjoy!

Anonymous American Photographer

I subscribe to receive e-mails from Christie’s and Sotheby’s with results from various art auctions. Sotheby’s recently had an auction of photographs, many of which were historical photographs by famous photographers. A large number of them were daguerreotypes from the 1840’s. There were a few Westons, a Cunningham or two. Adams, Strand, Stieglitz and Steichen were among the names listed. But what struck me was the number of photographs – primarily the daguerreotypes – that were listed as being by “Anonymous American Photographer.” I couldn’t help but think, “is that our fate? Are we either famous or anonymous?” Scary thought.

Shopping and Photography

This is my 101st post – some kind of milestone!

I was having a conversation today with a friend about my approach to photography, and it caused me to think about the fact that although we make dozens if not hundreds of photographs each time we go out, the percentages of “keepers” can vary dramatically depending on our approach, our intended result and our ability to make tough editing decisions. It occurred to me that our approach toward what and how many images we keep is a lot like our approach to shopping. Some people buy lots of “stuff” even if it isn’t really something they need. They like it, it’s on sale or something caused them to want it so they bought it. Sometimes they buy these things and keep them forever, even once they decide they no longer want them. Others buy less frequently but what they do buy is well thought out, the purchasing decision is fully analyzed and the item purchased is exactly what they were looking for.

My approach to shopping made that transition long ago. I rarely shop, but when I do it is for exactly what I want, I get it and I go on. My photography is headed in a similar direction but is far less developed. My approach toward photography seems to be evolving from one of quantity to one of quality and as it does, I find myself keeping fewer images. The ones I do keep are ones I am happier with and that I will probably hold on to for a lot longer period of time. I feel like I am making better choices and that the resulting keepers are much stronger than when I was keeping a lot more. I wonder if this is because I am thinking of my images as prints instead of just pictures on a hard drive. Somehow thinking about and making prints forces me to take a harder look at an image. I find that a lot fewer of them are making the cut. Something to think about.

Happy April!

Wow, another month has flown by! I managed to make one blog post in March, but it’s been a busy month. This work thing sure takes a lot of time, but it is worth the effort.

Not much to say this time, but I wanted to post the April calendar for those of you who would e-mail me tomorrow if I forgot.

I would like to ask one small favor. A number of my readers subscribe via Networked Blogs on Facebook. Networked Blogs gives readers the ability to rate a blog, from one star to five stars. If you are one of those followers, I would really appreciate a few ratings (especially if they are good!). Please be honest, but please take the time to rate. I’ll be sure to do the same for those of you who have blogs.


This month’s calendar is an image from my motion blur series, taken last spring on the Torrence Creek Greenway near my home. I think it really says “Spring” by emphasizing the fresh green and soft new growth of the season.

Photographer or Tourist?

I’ve been thinking lately about the propensity that a lot of photographers – famous and otherwise – have for traveling to and doing workshops in places they don’t live, and the fascination we “mortals” have for spending big money for the privilege of traveling with big name photographers to such far-flung places. I certainly can’t blame the photographers because presumably they are being well-paid to go by those with the cash to afford their workshops, and it’s great that people are willing to shell out dollars to be able to rub elbows with famous photographers in exotic locations.

Kathy & I have been talking about and making a list of places we want to go while we’re still working and have the money, places we might not be able to afford when we retire and have the time (what’s fair about that?). I love to travel, but have accepted the fact that the kind of photography I tend to do requires that I either learn about a place and keep going there until I get what I am looking for, or wander around with a camera until I see something that catches my eye and photograph it. The former approach is very location-specific and requires repeated visits. It’s best done when it is close to home. The second approach is what I often find myself doing when we travel. The interesting thing about that is that many or most of the “better” photographs I come back with are not location-specific. They could have been taken anywhere. Then I think, “if I can make a photograph like that anywhere, why do I have to travel halfway around the world and spend a bunch of money to make it?”

Kathy & I went to Alaska several years ago. It was a trip we really wanted to take, we did it to celebrate our 25th anniversary, we took the kids and it cost us a bundle. I don’t regret for a second that we did it, it was that worth it. In preparation for that trip I convinced myself to take the plunge into digital photography. I invested a lot of money in new gear, all of it I still have and use. That was worth it. We were in Alaska for 12 days and I came back with about 2500 photographs. A lot of my photographs are pretty darned good and would make an interesting presentation to the local Rotary club or even a local camera club meeting. There are a few photos in there that I count among my “heroes,” but since I had no control of the schedule, the conditions or the weather, everything I got was due mostly to good luck. For the most part they are a bunch of ordinary photographs of some really nice locations. Some of them are probably better because of my “eye” or my skills, but most of them are pretty ordinary. The fact that I am five years down the photographic journey may have an effect of how I feel about them now, but I’d like to think I would make different and hopefully better photographs on a return trip, all else being equal.

If I spend a bunch of money to go one someone’s photo workshop or take a vacation to an exotic location, am I going as a Photographer or as a Tourist with a Really Good Camera? I suspect that it may be the latter, and I think I’m OK with that. If I come back from a great trip with a few heros, fantastic! If not, as long as I accept that I may end up with a bunch of ordinary photographs of a really nice location, I can live with that too. I feel better knowing that my expectations are in line with the expected results. Enjoy the journey, and take some good photographs along the way!

Photographs and stuff!