Thursday, October 28, 2010

Holiday Portraits


I shot my feature this summer on a railroad platform in La Spezia, a town on the Italian Riviera.  Mary and I, with Lori and Doug Kolbenschlag, explored the area during a day and a half of free time in the study abroad program.  I noticed this couple as soon as we were on the platform, and I was able to LURK for about 25 minutes. 

Boy & Dog, rejects

So, what’s not to like about a boy and his dog?  This isn’t a really a reject, it just didn’t fit the assignment.  The portrait of Rocky is way way down at the bottom of the blog.  Every time I look at this I remember that pleasant morning and the assistance by Ashley and Kayla.


So I was looking through my old notes, trying to find something about how artistic inspiration becomes scarce when you look for it, and how different folks handle that situation.  I found some stuff from way back in the first few quarters, and I can’t cite if it was Harkins, or Finch, an ACP lecture or study abroad, but it was probably a combination of all our instructors (I keep a haphazard journal). 

Poetically, it comes out as the parable of the butterfly catcher and the fisherman.  Long story short, the butterfly catcher tends to move around a lot hoping to snag a perfect specimen because they are known to inhabit the location.  The fisherman takes a seat and observes the scene, perhaps focusing on shapes and how they change over time, and putting that composition in the view finder.  Features usually need people, and that sounds like fishing   

Preferences, Camera Raw adjustments in Bridge & Lightroom

I recently got my activation keys for Photoshop CS5 and Lightroom 3 and I am happy to avoid those 30 day trial screens.  I work with both of these at home and school and I noticed a few things.  My home preference settings (under edit pull down) don’t change, but at school it is necessary to check all preferences carefully if you want to have consistent results.  The other thing is the Camera Raw adjustments in these two programs.  The menu layouts are different, so you have to hunt around for the particular slider you need.  And there is one other huge difference:  the Bridge menu is white and arranged in columns, the Lightroom menu is black and you scroll down one column.  It’s frustrating to have to re-learn a menu (with each new version!), but each program has the same adjustments.  Below are some composite screen shots of the menus.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Recently everyone has been looking for features, a topic that some great photographers have a hard time defining.  It reminds me of Supreme Court Justices declaring that they can’t define pornography, but “I know it when I see it.”  We saw some great features at critique today and the best ones were easy to recognize.  A common comment for those was “Good catch” or “Lucky”.  Sometimes those remarks can sound a little off-putting, but I think they are exactly on the mark if you accept my definition of good luck.  For me, good luck is the combination of opportunity and preparation.  We see a lot of intriguing opportunities, but we fail to take advantage of them for lack of skill, equipment, or the sun just decided to come out from behind a cloud. 

On the other hand, by fifth quarter we have much of the preparation but the opportunities seem to evaporate like a mirage.  The harder we look for inspiration the less there seems to be.  When I figure out how to fix that situation I’ll be back.

There probably is a neat feature on this beach somewhere......

Social Media

Tuesday there was an article in the sports section of the AJC, an ancient form of communication akin to telegraphy, pooh-poohing the use of TWITTER by college athletes.  It seems that Paul Hewitt, head basketball coach for Georgia Tech, and Mark Fox, his counterpart at Georgia, are discouraging their players’ tweets.  Some how these two coaches, and apparently there are others, got the notion that their players should actually get up, go to school, practice, play basketball, and “work to be better” (at what?) instead of constantly up-dating each other on shots made, weights lifted, who said what about whom in what tone of voice, and other vital details of life.   

These two Luddites went so far as to characterize TWEETS as distractions, and even to imply that 140 characters could cause problems for the sender and/or the receiver.  Worst of all, they cited a “study” that alleged over 71% of all TWEETS go unrecognized.      This citation reminds me of the question about the tree falling in the forest.  Well, excuse me while I go now to recognize 79 nontrivial new messages on my dumb phone.  My inbox is bursting.

Holiday Portraits

This illustration is from a pirated copy of the 2010 catalog that displays one of the exciting new color combinations for the most popular full size sleigh in North Georgia, the ESCLADE SNOW BLADERUNNER.  Master technicians work ‘round the clock to apply custom paint schemes, unique for each customer, precisely as specified by designers from PRADA, DOLCE & GABBANA, RALPH LAUREN, and FRUIT OF THE LOOM.

"Now, Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On Cupid! On, Donder and Blitzen!”

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Injured Gymnast

Erica is a friend of my daughter Sara, and a serious competitive gymnast at the county facility in Roswell.  Unfortunately, she broke her foot recently on the beam and she will be sidelined for 2 months in a boot.  This club likes to keep track of their “CRIPS” (almost a badge of honor to the youngsters), and she asked me to take a full length snap shot.  We didn’t have time to get to a studio or to the gym in Roswell.

Holiday Portraits

Time to gear up for painting our set props.  The tall street Lamp we all love (but may not use) is in Studio B, with a fresh coat of primer.  The next step is to lightly sand the raised wood grain and then top coat it with Tricorn Black.  This thing could look sharp as an interior sign post or hall “violator” (marketing speak for something that gets in your way and makes you say, “Hey, I need what this violator is selling!”)  Sorry, I don’t have a picture.

But the best prop, the super, the ultimate, is Santa’s ESCALADE Sleigh.  This model is the EOS-1Ds Mark III of Holiday Transport, and it is ready for delivery Wednesday, October 27.  As shown here, it comes with a driver and google-pixels of surface to prime, sand, paint, etc. etc.  Kudos to the GTC Construction Department.  Please drop in on Dept. Head Kenny Atkins and say thanks. 

Lorie, can you make some seat cushions?


The Susan G. Komen 3-Day Walk for the Cure walked through Norcross & Duluth this past weekend.  I never saw so much pink in my live, but maybe I just don’t participate in these events as “hoofer”.  At least that is what most of the walkers that I met called themselves.  This particular model, Paula, from Clarkston, GA, was directing traffic and urging streetwalkers to obey the traffic cops.  Love those boots.  This was a crummy place to shoot, sun over head and impossible to frame this character and the participants facing the same direction.  Nearby aid workers were cheering them on but they never lined up in any kind of pose.  I drove around in my car for a few miles, looking for something different besides the costumes.  I never found a scene that looked interesting.


Muybridge began his career in the USA in1855 when he traveled to San Francisco, CA to expand his family business.  At that time, he was a bookseller and publishing agent.  Sometime before 1861, he suffered serious injuries in a stagecoach wreck and returned to England to recuperate.  There he learned the wet-collodion process and it became his primary method of producing negatives.

Throughout his long career he applied a number of chemical and mechanical innovations that increased the speed (ISO) of his glass plates and cameras.  In 1866 he returned to San Francisco and built a prosperous reputation as a landscape and architectural photographer using the pseudonym “Helios”. He sold pictures of the urban growth of the city, the wilderness of Yosemite Valley, stereo pairs on many other subjects, as well as portraits and other commercial work.

Flower Arranging

Mary has been arranging flowers, on the flower guild at church, for about 2 years now. I accompanied her to Van‘s Floral Products in Doraville, GA, last Friday in hopes of a colorful feature.  I noticed the average light is close to daylight temperature, but a gray card is necessary because of skylights and other light sources.  It is also rather dim, as you would expect in a warehouse.  “Mother’s Day is the most colorful event”, according to manager Paul Jenkins.  Their busiest day for in-coming flowers is Monday so I plan to return again throughout the Fall season.  Who says poinsettias are not colorful?   Paul said the entire floor can get jammed with deliveries around 10AM.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

New software tutorials – Photoshop CS5 and Lightroom 3

Ok, I paid $300 for these popular new programs, and now I have to dig out the details of why they are so great!  I found a few web sources that were seriously helpful.  Lynda dot com has wonderfully annotated videos that completely cover both programs (and about any other type of application software), but you have to pay.  They have subscriptions for a month or a year.  Check out their free demo vids.  At the other end of the cost spectrum is the plethora of pro and DIY videos on You Tube.  Russell Preston Brown is among the best producers I have found here. 
You will probably get an OK education about the most commonly used features in the free section of the web.  As your interests become more arcane it gets difficult to find reliable information here.  Then there are those Scott Kelby books.  Anybody need his CS5 and Lightroom 2 volumes?  They make good door stops.


The touring brass section of the Ballou High School Marching Band takes a break during an appearance at the 2010 GWU Block Party.

Students of Ballou H.S. come from the Anacostia neighborhoods of the District of Columbia.  The marching band is famous for its contributions to school and community life.  It is an awarding winning organization that has performed at the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, CA, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and US Presidential inaugurations.

Multimedia/Photojournalism project

I hope to make Rainbow Village the subject of this project.  Rainbow Village (RBV) is a transitional housing facility for homeless families located in Duluth, GA.  I have been working with RBV and my church off an on for a few years, supplying time, clothing, building materials and fund raising efforts.

Social Media

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


If you are flying, Reagan National Airport is the quickest and easiest way to get into or away from Washington D.C.  My parents often drove us to the single small terminal to pick up visiting relatives.  Sometimes we could stand on the tarmac, behind a short chain link fence, and watch the planes land and taxi right up the runway to us.  Today it is much larger, with A, B and C terminals.  METRO is DC's version of MARTA, and it is the best way to get to Reagan.  Of course TSA keeps you very much inbounds. 


 The C&O Canal, a remnant of the early 19th century, is a narrow but long National Park that runs 184.5 miles along the north bank of the Potomac River.  It stretches from West Virginia to Washington D.C.  I ran up and down a few miles of its southern end in Georgetown, chasing this mule team and the possibility of a picture.

Holiday Portraits-3

Ashleigh, with some help from Nicole, finished retouching the background mural.  It is now tacked in place and ready to decorate with trees, snow, props, etc. etc.  Remember, there is room for many trees!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


You could say great features are simple ideas.  But I have to make simple pictures, unlike this one, below.  I was walking up M Street in Georgetown when I saw a police car and a NO STOPPING ANY TIME - TOW ZONE sign (upper right).  Then I saw a car pull in and park to clearly flaunt the first two items.  Later, I even saw the driver load bags in the trunk and then go off for more shopping.  I hoped to frame a ticket writing police closer to the sign.  After 20 minutes of watching the passing crowd, I began to wonder, “Where’s a cop when ya need one?” 


Edward James Muybridge was an Englishman born on April 9, 1830 in Kingston upon Thames, an ancient market town that is now part of Southwest London.  He spent most of his life in the United States where he changed his name twice: first to Muygridge and then to Eadweard Muybridge.  Today he is best known as Edward J. Muybridge, a pioneer in the photography of animal motion and a significant contributor to the early development of cinema photography.  Prior to his interest in documenting motion he was recognized as a successful commercial photographer in the western US (1866-80).  Around the time of his death, in 1904, he was studied by the nascent cubist movement. Marcel Duchamp claimed he was partially inspired by Muybridge in his famous painting Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 (1912). 


This is a shot (rejected) from my first sports outing.  The part that interested me was the expression of the official.  He is running with a group of defenders, chasing the pass receiver who got away, and he appears to be very happy.  So why is he beaming: does he simply appreciate a great action play, or is that one of his relatives racking up the yardage?  Another question could be the ethics of officials displaying any enjoyment of the game.  There was a possibility of a feature here, but that would be more obvious if the few defenders were a big thundering/menacing herd.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


I plan to regularly post some short notes about the history of photography and photographers.  There is a lot of good detailed information available now, and I’m not going to simply regurgitate things anyone can simply google.  Instead, I want to mention some of the lesser know facts about how technology developed, what famous photographers did before they became famous, and how they were connected to other artists.  My interest grew out of an assigned research paper.  My subject was the 19th century photographer Edward James Muybridge.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Holiday Portraits-2

We are showing a little progress now.  Ashleigh began retouching the mural last night and Gretta came in to chat about other details.  So far we have two trees and a park bench.  The construction crews met today and decided to build a full size two seat sleigh with the help of GTC’s Construction department.  Now all we need is a gift of about $150 worth of plywood.


The current assignment is sports, and fortunately we enjoyed a beautiful day to see our team battle to victory in a nail biting 26-25 game that wasn't settled until the final moments of the 4th quarter.  I was ready when the play came to me and fortunately I captured a lose ball and two expressive faces in the 3rd quarter.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Advanced Portraits

The first assignment, a pet portrait, went well.  I had a very happy and cooperative Labradoodle (I can’t say that name with a straight face) who was comfortable in the studio.  He sat fairly still in an easy chair.  I never had a dog in my life, and I was fortunate his mistress and her son were there to help pose him.  The biggest thing I noticed during the shoot was Rocky’s tongue was often pointing about 90 degrees away from his line of sight.  That was a huge distraction for me, and it ruined many otherwise attractive frames.  Rocky would not close his mouth, so we compromised, and he draped his tongue over his front teeth. 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Holiday Portraits-1

HOLIDAY PORTRAITS is a fund raising activity that helps pay for our portfolio show (September 2011). My job is to help build a set that portrays “a walk in a winter wonderland”.  We have less than a month to construct it, but I think the concept is solid and easy to understand: a late afternoon / early evening winter scene in a snowy wooded park that contains alcoves to accommodate small, medium, and large groups of customers, with a suggestion of a reflective frozen lake front.  The first step is to clean up Studio B, then re-touch the forest mural and hang it on the back wall.  We should accomplish these steps by Wednesday, 10/13.  Some prop ideas are shown upper right.