Sunday, December 16, 2007

From Then to Now

Below is a new image I made this weekend. When I go into Philadelphia for a shoot I have to think a little differently than when I shoot nature and scenics. In a city I am looking for compositions that include the architecture (almost impossible not to) but yet either tell a story or create a mood. This often involves making the image B&W, including people, or other techniques.

In this image I see something a little deeper than my usual compositions. As my son and I were standing near the Liberty Bell, trying to stay warm, and me realizing that the day's light was quickly waning I saw a few people make their way past the softly lit historical icon. I liked the way the bell was lit, and I also saw the potential for the effect of motion of the people near the bell.

A day later I see much more than just the bell. I see the old bell in a modern glass building. Above the bell I see the mid-section of very modern office building. Above that is the reflection of Independence Hall, clearly a piece (and place) of American history. (Also a key element of the movie National Treasure, of which the sequel is released a few days from this writing, and which my family and I greatly enjoy).

And to add to all this is the American flag, in its own little segment of the image.

So this one image encompasses historical American elements and modern-day architecture, all interacting.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Last Show of 2007

Now that I have participated in my last show of the year I would like to thank everyone who has either made a purchase or felt compelled to stop and take a look and possibly engage me in conversation. Although I hope that every "looker" results in a sale I realize that the purchase of a print must be made on your terms, to fill a need of yours and possibly to fill a space on your wall. If you don't think one of my prints will work for you then I am still glad that you took the time to flip through them anyway.

And it's the conversations and exchange of anecdotes that I enjoy very much. I meet a lot of people who have a connection to either the subject or location of one or more of my prints. (That is an advantage of selling locally.) I gain a greater appreciation for my own work when I learn more about the places that I have photographed. So again, even if a purchase is not made, I feel like I have gained something from the interchange.

If you are interested in making a purchase for the holidays, as a gift or for yourself, you can either go through my main website or you can visit the following store: The Unique Boutique in Yardley, Pa. The store has a large selection of unframed prints, and a small number of framed prints.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


So it looks like the fall foliage season this year will be a bust. The trees in the area of the Delaware Water Gap are still green, but turning pale. The lack of rain this fall will make it hard for the colors to appear. In a way I am not disappointed. I am trying to make my compositions stronger, not simply including brilliant color for the sake of it.

Below is a recent image from the Gap, in an area I've frequented before. One particular stream seems to yield numerous possible compositions, some I've dismissed before but as I persist I discover them over time.

Monday, October 15, 2007


Try as I may not to, I sometimes find myself getting into a photographic rut. I fear this happening again as the fall foliage season approaches (it is very late this year, due to the warm weather). It is very easy to go out and find beautiful color all over the countryside. Simply snapping photos of this color can yield many "pretty pictures", but making "pretty pictures" is just not enough. In fact when I hear the word "pretty" spoken during the shows I attend I cringe. When people see my photos simply as "pretty" then I think I have under-achieved. Anyone can create pretty pictures, but I want my portfolio to ultimately contain something a little deeper.

So in the limited time I typically have available to make images, I am more and more likely to try to think outside the "pretty" box. Maybe create a little drama. Try something a little different. In the image below I purposely grabbed my camera while heading out to work one morning, seeing the skies begin to clear from a few days of much-needed rain. I drove over to a local park and managed to catch a little drama in the skies. The image may need some more work but I am very happy to have created something that will elicit more than just the word "pretty".

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

What Was I Thinking

I'm starting a series of posts to delve a little deeper into particular images that I think could be somewhat instructional. I want to go through my thought process during the image-making process. Maybe this series will help you a bit in your own photographic endeavors.

I was walking in a local park this past weekend, trying to get inspired for the coming fall foliage season. I can across a tree with these very unique and interesting seed pods. It was an overcast day, with the fog slowly dissipating (which is normally a great time for nature photography) but I was concerned about the following things:
- Lighting
- Sharpness
- Background

Even before addressing these concerns I must say that these pods were mostly at or above eye level, so I would have had a very hard time setting up the camera to get a quality shot. So I immediately searched out a sample that I could remove from the tree and shoot elsewhere. I found a small branch with a series of pods, and with the last pod already open exposing the seeds.

I initially looked for a place that I could position the branch in the nice diffused light, but have a dark background, possibly a shady area below another tree. There was no wind, so that was helpful. But I couldn't really find a good place where I could secure the branch and setup my camera to make the shot.

So I decided to take the branch home and work with it there. I set it up so it angled down slightly. The background was some dark cloth, and I lit it with a large softbox. I used a good quality 50mm lens to achieve a very sharp image. I made sure the pod branch was parallel to the image plane.

I made a series of images and under such controlled conditions it was not long before I had an image I really liked. I still have the branch in case I want to try different lighting (such as back-light) or different backgrounds. But I am quite please with my first attempt.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Getting Started

As I mentioned in a previous post there are always a few people at shows that mention that they have a bunch of photographs that they might like to try to sell someday. The startup process can be very trying and very expensive if done right (it can also be done inexpensively if done right). And even if you've done a pretty good job preparing for your first show you may not see immediate results for a while. I have talked to a few first-time artists at shows that did very poorly (I must admit I also did very poorly in some of my early shows).

I don't want to list the steps getting into the art show circuit (maybe later), but I do want to list the risks and other issues that must be at least considered before starting.
- Is your work desirable to the masses? (you may have very unique, high-quality work, but if many people are mot willing to buy then you will have a difficult road)
- Do you have a substantial body of work? (10 good photos may not be enough - 20-40 would be better).
- Is your technique or style uncomplicated? (non-traditional techniques can be confusing to buyers)
- How is the current market for art? (it has been getting softer for a few years now)
- Are you willing to wait a year or two before showing a profit?
- Is your work high-quality (e.g. uncluttered, eye-catching, properly exposed and printed, etc.)
- Do you think you have identified good shows to start out with? (don't be afraid to ask other artists)

Some of these issues become less important if you are specifically targeting a high-end niche market (which I personally am not). But for many people looking to start at local art fairs these issues are very relevant.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Advice: Simplicity

Over the course of a show I get into many conversations with customers and non-customers alike. Many of these conversations are with other photographers, usually amateurs. Sometimes the discussions goes toward what it would take for someone to get starting in the art show business. Many people have a lot of potentially very good images sitting in storage, and they think about what it would take to take advantage of them and begin selling them. I give what advice I can.

During one particular conversation one woman acknowledged what I think is one of the most important aspect of image-making that many beginners pay very little, if any, attention to. And that is: Reducing Clutter (RC). Simplifying an image almost always makes it more powerful. This not only refers to framing or cropping to eliminate unwanted objects on the edges of the image, but also to the background. A bland or out-of-focus background, when appropriate, immediately puts more focus on the main subject. It can be a real challenge to achieve this. Often it takes longer lenses, careful camera positioning, manual removal of unwanted objects, and so on. The extra effort is almost always worth it.

Doylestown Show

I just completed a two-day show in Doylestown, Pa. This is a very nice show in a nice area. Today there was a bike race going right through town, and although it created traffic frustration for many (including myself) it did add a bit of excitement for a few hours today.

I met a lot of friendly people, and although I (again) got tired of hearing "Is this digital?" I also was able to connect with many people and even learn a few things along the way. I sometimes learn details about subjects I have previously photographed. As many of us do I often make photographs without really knowing much about the subject. It's helpful to learn a little history or new details about something I have enjoyed photographing.

I would say I am off to a good start show-wise for this fall. My next show is in Yardley at the end of September for Harvest Day. This is a very popular outdoor event and I hope to see some of you out there. How's this for a challenge: The first person to greet me and say you've read this blog I'll give you a special gift.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Prepping for the Fall

I am all set to attend six shows this fall:
- Doylestown (Pa)
- Yardley (Pa)
- Chestnut Hill (Pa)
- Moorestown (NJ)
- Charles Boehm middle school (Yardley, Pa)
- Archbishop Wood HS (warminster, Pa)

You can see the details at my Show Schedule page.

There's only a few weeks left before the first show, and one of those weeks will be spent in Florida with my family. I am busy making handmade frames for these shows - I am very satisfied with how they are coming out. It is time consuming to make them, but I greatly enjoy it and it is even more satisfying to see how well they come out and how my work looks in them. It will be a great improvement over the thinner wood frames I was using previously.

I think this is a nice collection of fall shows. If you do come by my space at one of these shows please let me know you've been at my website/blog - it's nice to know this online effort is worth it.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Black Eyed Susan and Daylilies

It is the middle of summer - actually more towards the end of summer - and the predominant color is ... green. But in the area near where I live there are a few types of flowers that most commonly break up the monotony. These are the daylilies and black-eyed susan. They are everywhere in fact. The daylilies are so common it boggles my mind that people pay good money to have their flower beds look so much like their neighbors.

I guess there are advantages to these apparently robust flowers. They probably don't need much water, which is a real plus in the hot, dry summers we often get. But photographically they become much too common - it can be very hard to be original with them. I do try though, and I think the image below is composed well enough to use these flowers in a setting that simply says "summer".

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Tradeoffs and Compromise

Every time I go out to photograph, even for a causual shoot at local locations, I am quickly reminded that to make high-quality photographs (and by high-quality in this discussion I mean sharp, well exposed images) I often have to make compromises. Low noise with low ISO, or quicker shutter speed (and possibly a sharper image) with a higher ISO, along with its higher noise. If I catch myself without proper stabilization, such as a tripod or monopod, and the light is marginal, then I begin making judgement calls. Other factors that come into play are aperture, lens quality at certain range of use, subject matter (moving or stationary), and others.

Photography has many dimensions, and one is this mental process the photographer must go through to evaluate all of the factors that are present, some in his control and some not. A solid working knowledge of one's equipment is critical to being able to make judgement calls that just cannot wait. E.g. a deer that won't hang around much longer, sunlight that is beoming stronger by the second, water disturbance that is making its way towards your subject, and so on. This working knowledge allows one to anticipate what actions could be taken, what settings should be set, what buttons to push and dials to turn, all without spending critical seconds thinking about them.

On a slightly related note this morning I found myself out in the same sunny conditions that have been hanging around for a week or two now. I know that most of my favorite images have been made in diffused light, so I was not crazy about the lighting, but since I have only a few hours a week (if that) to photograph I often have to take what I can get. I was happy to have been able to use fast shutter speed and low ISO, and the images are very sharp as a result, but I was also slightly disppointed by the results because of the full sun, albeit low morning sun.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


Every photographer has a different gameplan. Some spend their whole life photographing a narrow range of subject matter or possibly in a narrow style of processing. Some photographers work through projects - they choose a theme to photograph (a subject or style) over a period of time and devote themselves to that theme.

Some photographers are like myself. Often we go out without a clue what we are going to photograph. Of course during certain times of the year (e.g. the fall) or for certain trips the work is going to fall into a narrow range by default. But often we just grab our camera (usually in the morning or evening when the light will be agreeable) and go out to our favorite spots and start looking. True, there may be a lot of luck involved, but this method also requires a keen eye. Without a pre-determined subject or theme in mind we have to be open to any and all possibilities.

In the past I have not photographed many animals - I spent a lot of time working on scenics. But lately, for whatever reason, I have made quite a number of images of animals big and small (deer, frogs, moths, etc.) There is not a lot of color (besides green) in the summer, so I have been exploring other avenues to keep my technique sharp.

The image below is a recent product of that exploration. It took a little while for me to get the shot I was looking for, and I thank the frog for his patience.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


Lately in my photographic work I have been paying attention to keeping the image as simple as it needs to be. In general this usually yields a much more interesting, and often powerful, photograph. When an image is cluttered with too much "stuff", even though at first you might think it adds to the overall scene that was originally there, the main focus of the image becomes diluted and the photo loses its appeal.

This goal can be accomplished in various ways. Framing the original shot is one way (and the most preferred). This can involve many things such as controlling zoom, focus, and camera position. Also when shooting the photographer can manually move clutter out of the way of the image, such as removing trash or temporarily pushing aside live branches or plants.

Also some of this can be accomplished during processing, when either the photographer did not notice the original distracting clutter, or he was not able to remove at shoot time. This can involve further cropping and possibly outright removal using a computer. This last technique is often frowned upon by photographic purists, but when one looks at photography as a form of art the main goal is to create something wonderful, not necessarily represent exactly what appeared at the scene. And when you think about it all of the other tools that photographers use regularly, such as depth-of-field (DOF), filters, computer sharpening and contrast control, all alter the original "scene" to his or her liking.

So remember the old adage KISS: keep it simple stupid.

Sunday, July 1, 2007


It only happens once a year, so I like to setup the camera and try to make some unique images of 4th of July fireworks. This involves a couple of key elements:

1) Appropriate camera settings
2) Framing of the image
3) Timing
4) Luck

The camera settings I used are something like: 10-20 second exposure, low ISO, and high aperture. The long exposure captures very nice long lines, and multiple explosions. High ISO is usually not needed, since the light from the explosions is well bright enough. And the high aperture allows for the long exposures without making the lines overexposed and almost pure white.

Framing involves making a nice image of not just the explosions themsleves but possibly the surroundings as well.Timing is obvious: When to open the shutter to capture a nice set of explosions.

Luck is hoping that the set of explosions you capture will ultimately make a nice image. I usually make a lot of exposures during a fireworks show, and hope that something intersting results.

I think the following image is one of my successes. It was taken last night at the fireworks at Peddler's Village, Lahaska, Pa.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


I'm not talking about framing a photographic image. I've had this desire for a long time to craft my own wood frames. In addition to photography I've dabbled in some wordworking projects over the years. I've always had a hard time picking just the right style. So I finally decided to give it a go - the only new tool I had to purchase was a strap clamp, although I also needed a new blade for my compound miter saw. The image below is the current style I am producing:

I am currently using poplar with a Red Oak stain. I am very happy with the look of the wood after staining. The grain is subtle and even. I will be experimenting with other colors in the near future.

The process of creating a frame from scratch is really not that complicated, but the technique is what makes this repeatable without too much waste. Sanding the wood to even out flaws and saw blade indentations. Cutting accurate corners without too much tearout. Applying the stain evenly. Finishing.

I am hoping to add these frames to my offerings in the near future. Keep a look out.

Friday, June 8, 2007

V is for Vignette

I love to shoot scenics - both small-scale (smaller subjects, tighter cropping) and large-scale. In the rural areas of Bucks County (Pennsylvania) there are many, many sources of very nice subject matter for these kinds of shots. But I also drive into the city of Philadelphia a few times a year to try and capture some nice images there. My style is not the B&W, gritty street photography that so many photographers do (and do well, I might add). And although city buildings lend themselves to studies in angles and shapes, I am drawn to a different kind of city photography.

Reading Terminal Market - 2007

The image above is an example of the kind of shot I look for in the city. Cities have lots of buildings and stores and landmarks, but they are also full of living and breathing people. And what I want to record is a vignette of city life, not an in-your-face kind of image, but a more subtle reproduction of a moment in the hustle-bustle daily life of a city-dweller. I think I succeeded in that regard in the above image.

Thursday, June 7, 2007


I recently made a photo of a moonrise in Yosemite National Park, and I have received some questions about handling the moon in photographs. Many experienced photographers know how to handle the moon but I'll discuss it a little for those who don't.

The light coming from the moon is approximately as bright as other earthly objects in daylight. So if you were to take a picture of the moon during daytime, which is when the above image occurred, you will typically see the moon with all of its details. But if you attempt to include the moon in a nighttime image, with an extended exposure, the moon becomes over-exposed and becomes a bright ball. Some people don't mind that effect, but some do.

There are various ways to handle this problem:
  1. Make your photo with the moon during daytime (like the image above)
  2. During night-time use a long exposure if you don't mind the "bright ball" effect
  3. Some people make two exposures, one exposed for the scene and one exposed for the moon, and they post-process the images to have the moon show with it's detail
  4. Some people simply paste in a copy of the moon in a night-time image (I'm not a big fan of this technique, although photography is art so it is not off-limits)
So there you have it.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Big Question

So what's the most common question I get at art shows. If you guessed "Do you use digital?" then you win a prize (not really ... about the prize part that is). I guess people may be genuinely interested in the answer, but I have a hard time believing that it really makes that much of a difference one way or the other. Art can be created with a multitude of raw materials, and which kind of camera I am using is just one of many variables. No one (or almost no one) asks me "What brand of computer do you use?" or "What kind of paper are the prints made from?" or any number of more interesting and meaningful questions.

Maybe I'm just getting tired of hearing the question. I thought by now that "digital" was so pervasive that nobody thought about it any more - but they do.

On a side note I had one guy approach me at Newtown Welcome Day and ask me this question, and then proceeded to explain why he thought digital was "junk" (to paraphrase him) compared to film. Of course after I got home my wife pointed out the irony that if he had to ask me the question then he couldn't tell if my work was digital or film-based, and thus his argument was pointless.

I'm sure I'll have to weather that question for years to come. Maybe I'll start coming up with novel answers, like "Which do you think it is?" or "Could be either" or "Does it really matter?".

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Second Thoughts

Second post .. second thoughts. Even the most established artists go through periods of self-doubt. And I, being quite un-established, have my share. Just last weekend I spent a third of my Memorial Day holiday sitting for hours in a hot tent, mainly watching people walk by with their families and dogs, enjoying the nice day. The sales were hard to come by, although the conversations I have with customers and almost-customers sometimes makes it worthwhile. In the end there were periods of second-thoughts ... I could have spent that day with my own family, by our recently-installed pool.

But I realize that for every really good show I have there will be a poor one to balance it out, and that every show is a learning experience. I was able to meet a few other artists (since they were free to roam the show with the foot traffic tailing off) and get some good information. And I also learned a little bit about the "art" of picking good shows (e.g. demographics do matter).

My First Thoughts

It's been about three years since I made the fateful decision to take my on and off hobby and become much more serious with it. It has been a long road for me since I took a few of my better images at the time and made some prints and offered them for sale. There's a lot of risk involved in such an enterprise - not just the monetary risk, but also the risk of rejection and disappointment. The first year or so was replete with rejection and disappointment, but somehow I barely avoided throwing in the towel. I'll be touching on some of that history in future posts.

I created this blog to allow me to open up a little and present my thoughts about photography, art, business, and life. Hopefully you'll stop by often to see what I've written - and of course you can add my blog to your favorite newsfeed aggregators (e.g. mine is