Friday, January 05, 2007

Photo Musings is moving

My many problems with Blogger have convinced me that this can't be the long term home for this blog.

The new location is

Posts that are here will remain here for reference. Eventually I'll copy them over to the new location as well.

If you have links to this blog, I'd appreciate it if you'd update them to point to the new location. Thanks!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Best Photo Equipment Purchase of 2006

Here's my nomination for 'Best bit of photo gear I bought this past year: it's the 30" Apple Cinema HD monitor. Expensive, yes, but not much more expensive that buying, say, two 21" monitors and running a dual-headed setup, and you end up with a single display surface, without a mullion in the middle of your 'window'.

The display is sharp and contrasty. I have no trouble profiling it with my Gretag-Macbeth Eye-One Display 2 puck and software, and the resulting profile amounts to little tweaks, not a big huge adjustment. The profile is stable over time, so when I forget to make a new profile at the recommended intervals, it's still good.

Best of all, running photoshop and editing photos on this thing is a joy. I can look at an image at 100%, and actually have enough of the image showing that I can see the context of what I'm adjusting.

I love it. I recall reading an essay in Lenswork, where someone (Brooks Jensen, in one of his lengthy editorial essays, perhaps) pondered "Why would ANYONE want a monitor that large?"

Well, here's the answer: it makes the process of taking those scans and digital captures and turning them into prints a lot faster, a lot easier, and a whole heck of a lot more pleasant.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Faux Artist Statements

Way back when, some friends and I held a friendly informal competition to see who would come up with the 'best' bafflegab example of an artist statment. Here's my entry. Each paragraph is followed by a translation into English (in italics).

I am primarily engaged in the production of images that might be classified as portraying non-sentient, semi-static objective reality. In particular, the works displayed here today represent my attempt to extend and generalize on the framework laid by Willman's Gestaltic Transfer theory, with particular emphasis on the normative and subjective states that comprise the majority of the persistent and transient gestaltic experience.

I make landscape photographs rather than take photos of people. I try to make people viewing the photo feel something like what I felt when I made the photo.

When I am engaged in the earliest portion of the imagemaking process, I find that certain arrangements of physical reality can be translated by an intentional neurocortical process (aided by appropriate augmentative technologies) into a virtualized simulacrum of the final artistic construct. This neurocortical process is simultaneously taxing and rewarding, resulting in heightened awareness of both objective and subjective realities. Almost without exception this process is experienced as positive and rewarding in the spiritual and emotional domains. In general, in the early part of the process I am seeking arrangements of reality which, when subjected to dimensional reduction, isomorphic geometric distortion, spectral reduction, and techniques like global and local non-symmetric transformation, nevertheless afford an opportunity produce a objective substrate which, by acting as a codified mapping to the original subjective experience of objective reality, can act as a trigger for a similar neurologic response in the viewer. Because the syntax and semantics of this mapping are in general poorly understood, this trigger effect, while generalizable, is not universal; in addition, apparently some individuals suffer from physical impairments which reduce or preclude their participation in this transfer process; fortunately the cardinality of this set is small relative to the that of the general population.

When I am making photographs on a good day, I can visualize what the final print will look like. Sometimes I use things like light meters to help. Although this is hard, it feels good. When I am doing this, I look for things which will seem like they will make pretty pictures even though the world is 3-d and in color, and photos are flat and in black and white, and generally speaking I'm not always clear on what will look nice. Not everyone likes my photographs, and people who are blind cannot see them and thus have a hard time appreciating them. Fortunately there are more sighted people than blind people.

In the best of cases, this neural response on the part of the passive/receptive participant in this bi-phasic process will be similar to that I encountered throughout the active/contributory phase, producing an effect that could be characterized as an apparent Willman style inter-individual gestaltic transfer of subjective experience. By careful use of judicious selection, and goal driven exercise of experientially learned behaviors combined with serendipitous exploration of the multi-dimensional space of possible artifact outcomes, I am able to produce
non-virtual artistic constructs which trigger neurologic responses in the viewer which are generally self-interpreted as positive. In general I have found that although this gestaltic transfer can transcend individual, social, economic and cultural boundaries, as well as those of time and space, it is not completely successful when confronted by barriers of genus or species. Despite this apparent shortcoming, I find that the process represents fertile ground for expansion along the lines pursued by the current work, and intend to continue in the future.

If a photograph 'works', the viewer will feel something similar to what I felt at the scene. I try to pick the good photos I take and not the bad ones, and I have learned how to make decent prints, although sometimes I depend on luck and flounder around to figure it out. Generally I find that in the end, people seem to find looking at them pleasant. Different people from different places can appreciate my photos, and people in the future or on another continent could do so, too. But my dog is indifferent to them and so are other non-humans. I don't care about the dog, I'm gonna make more photos.

In their seminal work, Brikoff, Hammond, et al theorize that the space of artists engaged in similar pursuits can be partitioned into those who engage in the activity in order to experience self labeled reward, and those for whom the motivation is primarily the receipt of virtual proxies which represent deferred future positive experience; naturally the two categories are not mutually exclusive and in fact represent the two endpoints of a bi-modal continuous distribution. While I fall into that category motivated primarily by the direct reward, I nevertheless am also motivated by receipt or promise of proxies for future gratification. Should you desire to prolong your passive role participation into a permanent state, it is possible for you to engage in a transaction of proxy and artifact exchange, mediated by representatives of the gallery. The rates of exchange between conventional proxies and artifacts have been set with the intent of maximizing the probability of transactions which will be viewed as having positive expected value by all participants.

Some people make art for fun, and some for money. A few do it for both reasons. I generally do it for fun but am not averse to selling photos. If you want to buy one, you can do so through the gallery. The price has been set at a level that we will all feel good about the sale.

Suzan-Lori Parks and 365 days/365 plays in Seattle

Pulitzer prize winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks had a cool idea - write 365 very short plays, then have them performed over the course of the year, one play per day, all over the US.

On Tuesday, the Seattle peformance of the play du jour was performed at the ice rink in Seattle Center.

It was pretty cool. Photo is from the performance.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Crisis of Unspecified Specificity

Go to

Read the whole thing. Including the comments.

Priceless, that is.

Work I'd like to see but never will

I'd love to look at the work on Ian Baguskas website.

Unfortunately, his website uses Flash. I hate Macromedia flash websites. My incandescent hatred of Flash based websites is brighter than a thousand suns. Heck, it's brighter than a million suns. I hate them so, I cannot express my incandescent hatred of Flash websites in mere words.

I hate the way every Flash website designer feels he/she must reinvent the website human interface, so that every single damn Flash based website becomes yet another damn learning experience as I struggle to figure out yet another example of a website designed by someone who thinks viewing photos on a website ought to be a puzzle akin to playing Myst.

Face it, you moronic Flash website designers - I'm part of your client's target market, and I don't want to learn another godawful, horrible, nasty interface designed by a moron who knows nothing about interface design. I don't want to watch bits of the interface animatedly scoot around when I click on something. I just want whatever the heck I clicked on to just take my browsing to the thing I selected, without trying to mesmerize me with animated crap.

I hate Flash based websites that, when you click on the 'enter' on the splash page, throw another window with the damn URL toolbar disabled, so that I can't copy the frickin' URL and email it to another person. Oh, no. I can't even TYPE the URL because the site has only one url, because in the Flash website designer's near perfect ignorance, the idea that someone might want to, say, EMAIL A URL TO AN INTERNAL PAGE IN THE WEBSITE simple didn't occur to them. I mean, God forbid I might send email to my wife, saying "Hey, look at THIS photo! I want to BUY A PRINT and hang it in the exercise room, where I can gaze upon its beauty as I exercise". That might result in an actual SALE, which is not what Flash websites are about. Flash based websites, apparently, are not about people looking at the stuff on your website - hell, no. That's a game for technolosers. Flash websites are all about looking cool while not allowing the viewer to do anything useful!

I hate Flash websites which insist on taking seconds and seconds to ooze the frickin' image onto my screen. Hey, moronic Flash website designers! The reason why I pay scoods of bucks for an outrageously fast 5 megabit/second internet connection even though I live in the back of what most people consider the middle of freaking nowhere, amongst the cougars and bears and other wildlife - the reason is that when I view a website that has lots of photos on it, I don't want to have to wait for the images to load, because life is short and I don't want to spend it sitting here, tapping my toe, waiting for the image to display on my screen. That's especially true when the reason I can't just jump instantly to the next photo is because you decided that you should make me wait in anticipation for 15 seconds watching the images fade out and then fade in before I can view the next photo in the sequence.

I hate Flash websites which fix the size of the window, so that if I go to view them full screen on my widescreen 30" diagonal 2560x1600 pixel display, I get a little suppurating slow hard to use website sitting in the middle of the vastness of my screen. The reason I got a big huge screen is that I want to sit back and view websites in spacious glory, not so that I lean forward and view a squinty little stupid Flash based website that was intended for a screen so small I can put a bunch of windows that size on my screen AND NOT HAVE THEM OVERLAP!!!

I hate the way text from Flash websites cannot be cut and pasted, so that reviewing such websites is a tedious chore of retyping the text. I hate the way the text in a Flash based website can't be indexed by search engines, and the way I can't use the site search feature of Google to search for something specific within the website. I hate the way the text cannot be sized using the browser text size control. I hate, hate, hate it.

I hate the way every god damn Flash website proudly tells me I can download MACROMEDIA FLASH PLAYER 8. For free! Sure, guy. That makes me feel much better about having to install a buggy piece of software to view your lousy website that I already know I am going to hate the very femtosecond my eyes spot the 'This site requires MACROMEDIA FLASH PLAYER 8' on the splash page.

I hate it. I hate Macromedia Flash. I hate it to death.

And here's the bottom line if your website is done with Macromedia Flash Player: I will not view your website. Instead, I will mock your decision to build a stupid, hard to use, slow, rebarbative website. And I will do it publicly, and I will show no mercy.

And then I will go visit some other website, and the photos on your damn Macromedia Flash Player based website will never be seen by me.

So I'm sorry, Ian Baguskas. I'd love to view your photos. Really. I'm sure I would love them. But your website will never be browsed by me, because I Just Can't Stand Flash Based Websites.

Karmic Justice

The magazine Shock is folding.

You'll recall that Shock is the Hachette Filipacchi Media attempt to introduce a version of the French magazine Choc to the American market, and that Hachette Filipacchi Media saw fit to use as the cover photo of the premiere issue(without obtaining permission) Michael Yon's photo of an American soldier cradling an Iraqi girl who was fatally wounded in a terrorist attack.

Apparently, despite assurances from HFM that a settlement would be reached, the publisher still has not settled with Yon.

I'm delighted to hear that this magazine didn't succeed. I hope HPM loses a huge amount of money. I hope all their magazines lose a huge amount of money, and I hope that the scummy people responsible for the illegal use of Yon's photo all get what they so richly deserve.

Yon will apparently continue his legal action against HPM. Good for him. I hope he wins a huge settlement and those scumbags at HFM all end up selling pencils on a street corner somewhere nasty.

Details here and here.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Some more thoughts on quantity (and camera size)

Because it's the end of the year, I'm in the thick of my annual assessment of stuff. Looking over my collection of images made over the last year (by viewing them in Bridge), and looking at images from previous years, I notice a couple differences.

When I was working primarily in large format, I routinely made 'in camera dups'. That is, once the camera was set up, I routinely exposed two sheets of film. Having two sheets was insurance - if I managed to screw up one sheet, I still had the setup on the other sheet. This saved my butt more than once, which is why I did it even th0ugh it doubled my film costs.

But working digitally, I never shoot dups. I sometimes exposure bracket - that is, I make an exposure, examine the histogram, adjust the offset, and then make another exposure.

That's an obvious but not very interesting difference.

More interesting is that with the EOS-5d, I can see that I often have several exposures which are all from the same basic camera setup, but with minor adjustments in framing or minor changes in camera position.

At first, I thought perhaps this was just laziness or insecurity, but I've noticed that I don't alway use the first exposure, or the last one. The final choice is spread across the exposures pretty evenly.

I finally figured this out. With the 4x5, I could actually see what I was doing, on the ground glass. The edge of the frame was marked clearly, and the image on the groundglass was large enough that I could actually make judgements based entirely on what I saw.

With the EOS-5d, no can do. That viewfinder is just too small, and there's no way to judge relationships in the image exactly. The whole "look through the lens" thing is right, it's just too damn small to make judgments. The viewfinder also shows only something like 85% of the frame, so there's no way to judge the edges closely.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas

Have a Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 23, 2006


This is a view of what my car looked like for several days - all the ordinary stuff shoved forward (see dog bowl, tennis ball throwing device, etc.) and the wayback filled with chainsaw stuff. I spent a lot of time cutting up downed trees.

This is a view of the scene that's now where the image from this post was made. It's hard to tell from this photo, but this is a pretty big area where essentially ALL the trees came down. It's just a huge tangled mess on the ground. To really convey some sense of the carnage, I need to find a way to photograph from a higher vantage. I'm working on that.

It's really hard to get photographs that convey the scope of the destruction, not only because what was once an orderly, visually appealing forest scene is now just a tangled heap, but also because it was a spot that was one of my favorites, and it's surprisingly hard to go back and photograph.

I had expressed that sense of loss and difficulty in even confronting the scene to Ed Richards, who has photographed post-Katrina New Orleans area extensively. His advice, which I think is pretty insightful, is that part of art is dealing with stuff like this. So, as time permits (I've been pretty busy) I'll be out there with the camera, trying to capture not just the destruction of this forest but also how it develops from here.

One little anecdote... I was working helping a neighbor clear the driveway to his building site. I figure there were well over 100 trees across the drive. We had just cleared a stretch the previous day, and there was a huge tangle of cut up trees on the side of the road. I went back the next morning to get started, and caught a little movement out of the corner of my eye - a large number of little wrens were flitting about inside the tangle. Sure, to me it was a tangle of destroyed trees. To the wrens, it was a maze of protected little spots, just right for little birds to be safe from bird-eating predators.