Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Box Design

In a followup to my previous post where I show my home-made box for transporting framed prints, I have put together a rough diagram of the design I used. It includes a materials list and a cut list. I have omitted the assembly since that is (a) more difficult to document and (b) should be self-evident to someone attempting to build a box like this. Just be careful to make the box as square as possible.

Below is the diagram. Click on it to make sure you are not seeing it compressed by Blogger.

I have not yet settled on a good lining material. I picked up some thin rolled-up blue foam insulation at Lowes, so I'm going to try putting that in. I'll let you know how that works out.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Spyware = Bad

I've just overcome a bout with spyware on my main computer. And I must say: Spyware creators are Evil, and Thank God for smart people who provide great free tools to eliminate this evil.

One of my children visited a "bad" site and maybe clicked on a pop-up she shouldn't have. After a few hours of getting nowhere I found a site that recommended Combofix. This is a program that performs some real magic and it eliminated the spyware that other tools could not. It's not a commercial program - it's a freebie that someone developed with a very crude user interface. But it got the job done, and that's all that matters.

Thank you smart spyware-removing people.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Searching for a Clue

I have recently begun keeping closer track of the traffic to my website. I am not using publicly available tools for this (why not - I really don't know). I keep my own logs and have developed some scripts that spit out some statistics for me. A few nuggets of information has some out of this.

Image-Based Searches

For one, and this was a little surprising to me, image-based searches usually resulted in very little follow-on traffic. Visitors coming to my site from, say, a Google or Yahoo image search typically only view that one photo that they linked to. They don't explore other parts of my site.

Now this is perfectly understandable. When you perform an image search, and click on a specific thumbnail that you find might meet your needs (whether it be to purchase a photo or, uh, "borrow" one for some other purpose) you are basically trying to confirm whether you like THAT PHOTO that you clicked on. You are really in the mindset of continuing your image search through the search engine, not exploring the target website.

At one point I was concerned with getting good rankings in the Google image search, but with this new information I'm not really that concerned any more.

Holiday Season

The other interesting piece of data is that during the winter holiday, i.e. the "gift-giving season", I seem to get a lot of subject-specific searches, and my sales during the holidays reflect that. When people buy photography as a gift I think the tendency is to buy a specific locational subject that the buyer believes the recipient knows and will appreciate. For example "Sea Isle Sunrise" or "Boathouse Row". I don't get a lot of "Fall Foliage" or "Waterfall" searches. Again - perfectly understandable.

Snow on Trees

One more interesting search that I get a lot of in November is for "Snow on Trees", or some variation of this. I have one particular image, shown below, that is a fairly good seller at shows, but not really that good online. But people search for this subject constantly. So what gives? My theory is that people are designing holiday cards or newsletters, either for their own personal use or for others, and they are looking for nice winter images to use for these. Although the quality and size of the image on my website is not appropriate for making prints, some people may find it acceptable for cards.

If this is true then I am sure people are stealing my images left and right, since I get no requests to license this image. It is nearly impossible for me to detect this (i.e. "enforce" my copyrights). And prevention measures are possible, such as making images much smaller on my site, going to a flash-based website, or slicing and dicing the image so it makes it harder to download manually. I am not inclined to do any of that for now, because I like the simplicity of my site - the way it operates, and the ease that I can maintain and update it.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Winter Project

For the past few years I have been transporting my framed prints in cardboard boxes. The boxes were OK, but not really up to the job. They were not durable and did not protect the artwork. They were very susceptible to rain and wet ground, and storing them during the show was always a problem.

So I've decided to build my own carrying boxes. I've seen similar boxes by other artists so I basically "borrowed" their ideas.

It's a simple box design. I designed it with the following features:

  • Removable lid, to protect from rain (some boxes I've seen don't have a lid). The lid stays in place simply by placing the 1x3 wood pieces slightly over the edges, as seen in the last photo.

  • Lauan wood sides. Thin, light, and cheap.

  • 2 inch "feet" on the bottom (the sides extend down to form the feet). In case of rain this will keep the artwork mostly above water level

Here are a few photos of a partially completed box. I will be putting in a soft lining material, but I have not decided on the material yet. I will also be putting on a protective finishing coat. Let me know if you want more information or the measurements/plans.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Indoor vs. Outdoor

I just completed my last show of the year, and surprisingly the faltering economy has not really hurt my business too much. I'm glad that people are making a strong enough connection to my work that they are willing to spend their hard-earned money to take the prints home.

There are a number of differences between indoor and outdoor shows. The advantages of the outdoor are pretty obvious. Potentially larger crowds, and bigger and roomier space to display more of the artists' work. This should typically result in bigger sales.

But in some ways I'm starting to grow fond of indoor shows. One major advantage is the weather factor, or non-weather factor. Not getting rained on or getting your tent blown away is a fantastic feeling.

Another advantage is that it is more a more intimate setting. Well, let's say "personal" setting. In a large tent a person could walk in, browse for a couple minutes, and leave without saying nary a word if they keep their distance from me. But at an indoor show I greet visitors very quickly, since I am typically standing or sitting just a few feet away. This often quickly leads to conversation, which helps to put the visitor at ease.

I thoroughly enjoyed my last two shows, both indoors, and I look forward to more int he future.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Churchville Nature Center Growing

I've just learned that one of my local photography haunts, Churchville Nature Center, will be expanding soon. A large chunk of adjacent land has been donated to them, and their visitor center is also going to be expanded.

Read about it below at

Churchville Nature Center Growing

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Busy Show

My show last weekend was well attended. The crowds at Charles Boehm Middle School were pretty steady all day, right up until the closing minute. Thanks to all who stopped by for a chat or a purchase.

I think my set-up has greatly improved over the years. The frames I am using now do a better job of enhancing my work, and I was able to utilize the full space effectively with the addition of a new print rack. I have been using lights since I began the indoor shows, and they are almost a requirement for selling photography.

Below are some shots of my setup. My next and last show for the year is at Archbishop Wood High School in Warminster, Pa. That will be Nov 21 (evening) and Nov 22.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Coming to a Close

Fall colors are dwindling away. Bright colorful leaves are starting to morph into brown, at least those that haven't fallen to the ground yet.

Also, my show season is almost at an end. Just 2 more shows. Next weekend in Yardley at the Charles Boehm Middle School, and two weeks after at Archbishop Wood High School. I have a bunch of images from the season that I will be working onto the website and into my inventory.

Below is a recent image taken during a fantastic morning near Lake Nockamixon in Bucks County. Shooting nearly directly into the sun through the fog creates an image with little color variance, but creates a wonderful mood with the silhouettes of the horse and pony.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Something a Little Different

Sometimes I struggle with autumn. The window is so small to take advantage of the best colors, and in addition due to my day job I can only spend quality photography time on the weekends. And when the weather is clear the sun arrives with full force quickly after sunrise. This can immediately create unwanted contrast, even when using a polarizing filter.

The other reason I struggle is finding creative ways to work in the color to quality compositions. I avoid making images of color for color's sake, unless there is something interesting going on in the photo. So with relatively few outings in the peak season I sometimes find myself under-performing, relative to what I know is possible during this season.

So this morning I am out at a local park, and the lake is full of geese preparing to continue their migratory journeys. As groups of them lift off from the water and head on their way I attempted to capture some of this activity. The sun did not cooperate today as some clouds blocked the "quality" light right after sunrise. So I did not get much of the geese activity looking horizontally across the lake.

But I did see the moon overhead, and with so many geese flying around I figured I would get some chances to include them with a moon shot. The image below is one such result. It does not represent the fall colors, but it is striking nonetheless.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Slippery When Wet

During a recent trip to the Poconos I re-visited a semi-hidden waterfall that I found a few years ago. The walk down from the road is short but steep, and once at the bottom of the trail the waterfall appears from the side.

There has been a lack of rain this fall, so there is not much water in the area streams, and this waterfall was sparse as well. The image below is of a small part of the falls that had an interesting shape. As you can see the black rock is slick and wet, made even worse by the wet leaves and moss. I was being as careful as I could, recognizing the slickness and being only in sneakers.

But eventually, as I was heading back down the rocks I slipped. I managed to save the camera and tripod, and only one foot got wet, but my phone slipped out of my shirt pocket and into the water. Fortunately I was able to grab it within a few seconds and apparently there was no ill effect. What great engineering.

The colors in the Poconos are great this year, and I've even found some great shots down in Bucks County already this fall. And there's still a few weeks to go!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

4:45 AM

That was my wake-up time this morning. I headed up to the Poconos to take advantage of the emerging fall colors, and to get the good morning light I had to literally drag myself out of bed. There is still plenty of green up there, and peak color is still probably 2 weeks away, but I did find some pockets of color to work with.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Not So Still Life

When compared with outdoor nature photography, which requires lugging equipment around, finding locations, waiting for the moment, (missing the moment), getting rained on, etc., creating still-life photographs seems like a no-brainer. Simply think of an interesting scene, acquire the pieces to put the scene together, put them together in a climate-controlled room in your house, light appropriately, snap a few shots, and voila! Great results! Right? Um, wrong.

Why not? Well for me, my brain just does not work that way. Maybe it's a deficiency in me, but I have a hard time creating an image from scratch. It's like staring at an empty canvas. I just have a hard time creating compelling still-life images, at least the kind that I have to assemble myself.

I guess my strength is what many people refer to is my "eye", as in "You have a great eye." I like having nature provide me with the starting point, from which I figure out what would make a great image. I can work around what nature provides, but I have a hard time replicating it on my own.

I thought of this as I was photographing a bunch of tomato filled baskets at a local farm. The shots I made reminded me of still-lifes, as if I could have brought the filled baskets to the farm myself and placed them in just the right spot. But instead I was fortunate to find about 15 baskets spread out along the edge of the field. This provided a number of possible image set-ups, and the one below is one that I like.

And I only had about 15 minutes before the pickers came back with their tractor to collect the tomatoes.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Calendar Contest

I received some good news that one of my photos has been selected for my company's 2009 corporate calendar. Honeywell is a company with over 120,000 employees worldwide, and the corporate calendar is created using submissions from its employees. The process this year included a voting component, in which employees could vote on images that passed an initial screening/selection process.

My image of a female cardinal was chosen for the month of December. I submitted this image because I felt it would work well as a calendar photo: Simple composition, clear subject, nice color. I like the range of colors in the female cardinal more than the male which is pretty much all red. Apparently the voters agreed with me.

Although there is no cash award (which I admit would be nice) I will receive a plaque and a number of complimentary copies of the calendar. Want one?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Dandy Doylestown

OK, that title is lame, but true.

Despite having the first day of the 2-day Doylestown Fine Arts Festival completely rained out by tropical storm Hanna, the second day was downright wonderful. Almost perfect weather. Very good crowds. Lots of interest in my work (that's the best part).

Doing the art-show "circuit" is a tough life, and I'm glad I only do it part time, i.e. I don't need to pay bills with it. Setting up and tearing down is hard work. Dealing with bad weather is downright nasty. Etc, etc. I constantly wonder whether it's worth it to continue. But the show today makes me realize how satisfying and fun it can be.

My next show is in three weeks, in Hew Hope, Pa. I truly hope we get a great weekend for this show - I think I deserve it. This will be my first year there, so I'm curious to see how the crowds there will take to my work.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Local Treasure - Moravian Pottery and Tile Works

One of least visited historical landmarks in Bucks County (in my opinion) is the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works, in Doylestown. I think a lot of local residents have heard of the place, but not many that I've talked to have even actually gone inside.

This was once a tile factory run by Henry Chapman Mercer, one of the prominent figures in Bucks County History. We took the tour recently with our family and we all really enjoyed it. They continue to make tiles to this day, although there was a period when the factory was defunct.

Here is a link to their website:

Moravian Pottery and Tile Works

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sunflower Summer

Summer is winding down, and the lack of rain locally has meant that what little color was around the last month or so has pretty much vanished. Although I actually saw some leaves turning colors prematurely, due to the dry conditions.

But the heartiest (and largest) of all flowers are still hanging in there. I have come across a few large "groves" of these flowers. Although many of these are near their last days, there are quite a few that are still going strong.

Before long it will be fall and we'll be chasing the colors of the season. But until then we'll take what we can get.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Orphan Works Bill

I don't spend a whole lot of time thinking about copyright issues (although I probably should) I do read my fair share. One very enlightening column was posted by, in my opinion, one of the key voices on licensing and copyright issues. Dan Heller has taken a very close look at the bill making its way through Congress, and he's not worried. I have not read through the bill myself, but following Dan's logic and his analysis I think we photographers are not in danger of abusive theft of our images.

Here's Dan's Blog

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Summer Doldrums

Yep, it's here. The dreaded summer doldrums, and I'm specifically speaking about the photographic doldrums. For various reasons I have gotten out to shoot very little this summer. One big one is that the morning "magic hour" of beautiful light is way too early for me. Sunrise before 6:00 ... yuk. During the summer my family, being free from school and work, like to stay up late nightly, so I don't get a chance to get to sleep early enough to allow me to wake up easily to catch that nice morning light.

We did have a family vacation in California, but I did not allot any time just for me to go out and shoot. We had only one rental car so it just didn't work out that I would go off by myself for any length of time.

To add to that, July and August in the Philly area is pretty devoid of color. Many of the wildflowers that would normally attract butterflies and moths have died or wilted due to the heat and lack of rain. So for me that leads to a little lack of inspiration.

This past week I was fortunate to catch a pair of white egrets feeding in the back area of the Churchville Reservoir. There was a bright morning sun, which added a little too much contrast, but I did manage to create a few images that were interesting. I have been waiting for the egrets to show themselves. They only rarely make a clear appearance, and I was surprised to see two of them together.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Southern California

We just spent 8 days in the San Diego and Los Angeles areas. Our main destination was San Diego, but we decided to throw in a couple of days that included Disneyland and Hollywood.

San Diego is a downright beautiful area. The coastline alternates between cliffs and beaches for miles on end. Small towns like La Jolla are tourist-magnets. In this town after you find a parking spot, which is quite difficult, you can stroll the cliffs, watch the seals, snorkle, kayak, surf, picnic, play in the sand, shop, etc., etc. There's just so much to do. I'm already planning our next trip there, maybe in a few years.

Below is one of my favorite images from the trip. It was taken along Sunset Cliffs, aptly named.

Sunday, July 6, 2008


Although development has encroached on many areas of Bucks County, there are still many, many farms operating in the area. In the summer that means lots of corn. But also I've been drawn to the golden color of wheat fields. I originally thought these plants might simply be grass, which is typically used as hay for various farm needs. But to my surprise these are wheat fields, a crop I did not know were grown in this area.

I've tried to capture these plants in some interesting ways. Although the individual stalks have interesting shapes I was originally drawn to the repetitive nature of the plants and size of the fields as I would drive or bike by them. In the image below I tried to capture that feeling of a large field, yet limit focus to the patterns in the foreground. The smaller size of this image does not do justice (I think) to what it will look printed.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Not a Fan of HDR

Every time I look at an HDR image, I am reminded (at this stage in my photographic life anyway) that I don't like them. Most of them seem unrealistic to me. I'm all for artistic expression, but they're just not for me. So don't expect to see them form me for a while.

By the way, HDR = High Dynamic Range. It is a technique where you take multiple exposures of the same image, feed them into a software program, adjust various settings, and the output is an image that limited/controlled contrast. The very dark areas are not black, and the very bright areas are not pure white (i.e. blown out). This is a useful technique in some circumstances, but the result is often lacking in the contrast that often makes an image interesting.

I'm not posting an image (you can do a google search instead) because I don't want it to look like I'm putting down a specific person's work.

'Nuf said, for now.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Turn Around

It's amazing what you'll find if you just TURN AROUND. Especially in the morning and evening. Even when an area looks completely devoid of interesting shots, the angle of the sun may be creating a fantastic scene that you just can't see, because you're looking the in the wrong direction. You me even be standing right in the middle of it and not even know.

For the image below I was bound to see it, because even though I "missed" it driving into Tyler Park on a recent morning, the same road was also my only exit. As an added benefit the rain from the night before continued to fall from the trees in bunches, which added a new dimension in the sunbeams streaming through the trees.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Printing Very Large

I am currently working on getting some large prints (20x30) made for a client. Preparing images for large-size printing requires more attention to detail than small or "medium" size prints (e.g. up to 11x14). The bottom line is that small imperfections get magnified. Slightly out-of-focus images seem a lot out of focus. A tiny bit of chromatic abberation becomes a glaring green, purple, or red line. Sensor noise become much more noticeable. Although these prints will not typically be viewed up close I would rather there be as few negatives as possible to detract from the image.

Although these factors are always addressed during regular image processing, I give extra attention to these details when I prepare the images for large-size printing, making sure that a previously un-noticeable imperfection does not become a distraction. Although it is recommended to view images at 50% on screen to adjust for sharpness and other qualities I view images at 100% or more ("pixel-peeping") on-screen for this process. I inspect the image 100% to make sure I didn't miss anything. Any mistake that makes its way into printing will force me to re-print at my expense, and these large prints are not inexpensive.

Some images (to me) are just unacceptable to print very large. Of course this comes down to the judgement and vision of the artist. Some artists would print any image to any size, because the quality (e.g. sharpness) of the image is not as important as the content. But most of my images are of a scenic nature, and the expectation is that scenic images are rather clean and sharp. This will limit the candidates somewhat for large image printing. Good camera and lens technique will eliminate most of the potential problems, but some must be dealt with during post-processing.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Morning Walk in Tyler Park

I decided to take a stroll early this morning through Tyler State park. There is a nice meadow that is frequented by some bluebirds as well as other bird species. The bluebirds have set up shop in some nest boxes built just for them (they have the word "bluebirds" right on them - I guess they can read!).

Although I previously had some luck getting close to one particular nest box, I was not able to today. The babies were clearly inside, looking big enough to pop out and try flying themselves. The mother (or maybe father, or maybe he was taking a day off because of Father's Day) saw me and my tripod setup and decided to shoo me away ... which she did very well. She dive-bombed me until I had no choice but to leave.

I was able to capture some birds hunting for insects in a nearby field, and also some robins (which are quite skittish when humans get too close at all). Moths were active, and some forest flowers were blooming. Here are some flowers I found bursting out:

On a side note we found a baby robin on our front lawn that apparently was either injured or fell out of its nest a little too early. It was hopping around, unable to fly but flapping its too-small wings. I initially felt there was nothing we could possibly do, but we decided to put the little guy in a box with some nesting material (grass and leaves) and put it near the parent robins that were clearly looking for it. We put the box in a bush so animals would not easily find it. I still don't think will survive, but at least it might have a better chance.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Peddler's Village Wrap-Up

As forecast it was certainly a hot weekend at the Peddler's Village Fine Arts show. The weather was the big story, both days in the 90's, and it seemed to keep visitors away in droves. We artists had a lot of free time to socialize with each other (I actually learned that pet ferrets can be litter-box trained - go figure!). I survived with enough sales to make the weekend worthwhile, and I also received a second place award for the Photography category (my first award of this type). My work represents many of the surrounding areas, which helped to create a lot of conversation between myself and visitors, and in large part helped my sales as well.

My next scheduled show is in Collingswood August 2-3. Until then I'll be looking for new opportunities to make great photographs. We're now in summer mode in the U.S. I've been enjoying my recent animal photography so I may continue in that course, and maybe try to discover some waterfalls or other moving-water scenery.

I've posted below an image that seems to get interest from both locals and non-locals alike. It is a shot of the historic library at Lake Afton in Yardley, Pa, which was built in 1878. I get a lot of questions about it and I plan to research it a little bit more. This image was made in the fall of 2006.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Google: Good News Bad News

I have had my website up and running for about 4 years now, and during that time I have had some ups and downs. It took a while to generate some online sales, but I can now expect a fair number of these sales yearly, where previously I might expect, well, none. Many of these sales have come from web searches.

One of my focus areas, and I'm sure that of many other people, is how my website ranks in Google searches. I have taken some steps to maximize the results, but here is where the good and bad news come in.

The good news is that in regular web searches, my pages have been getting some fairly high rankings. Some specific searches rank very high. And most of my pages are indexed.

But I'm having opposite results in the Google image searches. I have been watching my images slowly get removed from the Google image index, and just recently none of my product images remain, except for a few of my blog postings and some button graphics. For a while I had a number of images rank very high, and they were directing a fair amount of traffic to my site, but now they are all gone. I'm really confused. If anyone has any ideas please drop me a line.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Hot Weekend

Summer is just around the corner. Our pool is open, the water is warming. Sunset is around 8:00 PM. The lawn continues to grow, but once the wet weather abates like it usually does by June or so it won't be long before the growth slows and brown-ness creeps in.

Summer will really hit with 90 degree weather this coming weekend just in time for a new 2-day show I'm doing this year. It's at Peddler's Village in Lahaska, Pa. I'll be sure to come prepared with a cooler full of cold water. I'll also probably set up the tent the day before to avoid working up a gigantic sweat the day of the show.

I found this small garden near a historic building in the Washington Crossing area. I really liked this frame of an old-time wheelbarrow. The sun was still rising but this area was out of the sunlight. I added a soft effect during image processing. Before I print this I want to tweak the look of it to make sure it's has just the kind of look I want.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


I was looking forward to presenting my work at Newtown Welcome Day this past Sunday. This show is as close to my current home-town as I'm going to get, and I have a number of new images of local interest.

But, alas, as the forecasts predicted we received rain beginning around 1PM, just one hour into the show, and it did not stop until later in the day. We had to pack up (in the rain) and call it a day after only a short time open for business. I fully expected the rain and anticipated for it. None of my work got wet, and thankfully there was no wind.

Even in that short time I met a number of people who had positive comments on my "Family Fox" print, especially since this image was taken in Tyler Park just a short distance from the show's location. There is something about these animals that attracts people. They seem pet-like, even though they are wild, and they seem very non-threatening. It surprises me that the comments I get on some of my deer photographs are usually along the line of "they eat my garden". But the foxes only draw compliments.

Hopefully the Newtown show will be rescheduled in the near future, as they did have a rain date scheduled.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


I have a few images that I have made over the years that represent scenes which are very rare. They were present for a very short time, minutes or even seconds, and then disappeared or morphed into something different, less photographic. Was I in the right place at the right time? Yes. Was I lucky? Well ... no.

A great many people provide comments similar to "Boy, weren't you lucky?" while pointing or gesturing towards one of these prints. I usually politely agree. But in reality I don't believe in what most people call luck. I like to refer to the following quote:

"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity" (author unknown)

I truly believe that, as a photographer, if you get your butt out and shoot as often as you can, and mix in some planning, good things will eventually happen. Going out in the morning often yields great "light shows", whether it be a glorious sunrise or sunbeams piercing a light fog. Setting yourself up in a area with a distant background can yield shots with beautifully isolated subjects (because the background will blur out). It's not luck - it's planning and persistence.

Getting one particularly unique shot may seem like luck. But getting a bunch over the years can not be attributed to luck. Luck may be winning the lottery. Great photography is planning and persistence (is there an echo in here).

The image below is a real attention grabber at the shows. The scene existed for only a few minutes. I guess I was fortunate to capture it, but think of all the scenes I am NOT capturing by not getting out often enough (dang 9 to 5 job). Am I unlucky to not capture them - no. I'm just not persistent enough.

Get out there and shoot!

Monday, May 12, 2008

A Blustery Bethlehem Show

I finished up a 2-day show in Bethlehem, Pa and the weather was less than cooperative. On Saturday it was very cold, especially for May, and on Sunday the wind kicked up for most of the day. For most artists the wind was mostly a nuisance, but for some with weaker tents and/or fragile items like pottery it was more than that. A few pieces were lost, but fortunately not many.

Some of my newer pieces were enjoyed by many, and purchased by a few. And being the first show of the year I sometimes forget how much of the day is filled with entertaining conversations - the stories and anecdotes that my visitor's freely share enhance the experience of selling my work.

The mesh walls I use have many nice features, but handling the wind is not one of them. The walls push back and forth in the wind - as well do the frames. But I think because I kept the sidewalls up all day the wind was not able to lift the frames up and bounce them around as much. I only adjusted them once later in the day on Sunday.

My next show comes right up on Sunday the 18th in Newtown, Pa (raindate is June 1).

I have attached some booth photos below to give you an idea of what I was presenting.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Show Prep - What I Have Learned

It's been about 3 years since I first started to do shows. Wow - have I learned a lot since then. At the time I knew that there were a zillion decisions to make, some artistic, some financial, etc., and in retrospect I would have changed some of those early decisions. Below I want to list some things that I think work much better for me now. But of course to each his own, your mileage may vary, etc., which is to say that every individual artist must make decisions that work for them. There is no right answer.

- Mat Cutter: I started using one of those handheld Logan mat cutters. It seemed to work for a while but after a while this method was just not cutting it (pun intended). It was hard to keep the mat steady while cutting, measuring was difficult, no hard stops to limit over-cuts, and so on. After a while the cutter's sliding edge was wearing down because you had to keep sideways pressure against the straightedge since there was no glide track. This type of mat cutter is only good for casual mat cutting.

I have since purchased a Logan 750, used off of craigslist. Even if I spent full retail price for this it would have been a good investment. I can easily straight-cut mats to size (which I could not do with the handheld bevel cutter - I was using a utility knife for that, and doing it on the floor), and it allows me to accurately and consistently produce high-quality mat openings.

(Tip: Although craigslist is geared toward local sales you can easily search for and pursue items in other cities. Do a Google search for your item and add the word "craigslist". When you find a good prospect contact the person and inform them that you are out-of-town and can pay with Paypal. If you have a good personal website then give them the link they can use as a reference to judge your character. Many people refuse to sell remotely, but some will. I bought a camera lens and my mat cutter that way.)

(Tip #2: Don't forget about the re-sale value of certain items you buy. If things don't work out the way you planned you can easily sell off your equipment on Ebay or craigslist without taking the full hit of your purchase price. Common items like mat cutters (and most camera equipment like lenses) fall into this category.)

- Mat type: I started by using paper mats but they are a poor choice for a number of reasons. They are not archival, and will eventually cause print discoloration. I also think the mats themselves discolor over time. The acid-free mats are best. I have been using the Richboro brand available at Framefit in Philadelphia for a number of years now. They are affordable and are a really good value. They are oversize and have rough edges. This requires only one additional edge cut over straight-edged mats, and I can usually squeeze out more mats per sheet. I pick these mats up myself and save a ton on shipping.

- Mat color: I have recently switched over to all white mats. At one point I thought the off-white color looked nice, but I think for a show they can seem dingy, especially in a frame. I now think my prints stand out much nicer than before. Also, it makes it easier to satisfy customers buying multiple prints, since the colors will match.

- Dedicated work area: It has made my job so much easier since I set up a dedicated work area in a spare room in our house. I purchased a nice solid used dining room table at a thrift store, and bought a shelving unit at Ikea. I could still use another shelving unit but now most of my "stuff" has a place of its own, and does not get damaged due to poor storage. I also added a single work light overhead ($10 clip-on light at Lowes) - this make work go very smoothly any time of day.

- Print bags: Almost everyone uses them. There is a non-trivial shipping charge so larger orders are more cost-effective. 'Nuf said.

- Blades: Replace blades often. I broke down and bought a bunch of blades so I didn't have to worry about them. If there is any falloff in smoothness of the cut, e.g. if you have to push even a little bit harder, then the blade should be replaced. No use risking ruining a good mat (especially a big one). Every once in a while inspect the cut very closely. If the front edge of the bevel cut looks like the mat material has been pushed up, like a tiny little lip, that means the blade is dulling and is pushing through the material rather than cutting smoothly through it. Time to change the blade.

Other things that I have done that, if you can afford it, are a great help:

- Mesh sidewalls by flourish ( They are much less expensive than other options and take up little room. They still take some effort to assemble and disassemble, and they are definitely not great in the wind.

- Buy a point driver. If you are into wood frames then buying a point driver is essential. You can buy any frame and don't have to rely on any clips provided by the vendor. This is an item that you could easily re-sell on craigslist or Ebay if you had to if things didn't work out.

- Folding 2x4 foot tables (Sam's club): I use these for my small matted print bins, and I store boxes and containers underneath. (It is better to get a table where there are no angled leg supports, so that the full space under the table is available for storage).

To end this, there are still some things that I have not quite mastered yet. I'll leave them for another time.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Show Planning

My first art fair is in two weeks, and here are some thoughts that have passed through my mind as I prepare:

- Even doing a moderate number of shows per year takes a lot of time. Just planning, re-planning, researching what changes to make, what equipment or supplies to buy, whether to change things or keep them the same, etc., etc. Looking for the best prices on certain items. This all takes time. Therefore less time for: family, photographing, housework, photographing, etc.

- In selecting images to print for the show I routinely go through older photographs to look for gems that I may have overlooked. I usually find a few, and that may not have happened if I didn't have a reason to go back through the archives. So that is a good thing.

- Selecting prints for the show is a difficult process. I have made a lot of photographs that I think are pretty good, but I realize they may not appeal to a general audience. So I have to choose images that I think may have universal appear. Well, not totally universal, but they at least should sell a few copies through the year. I have made some great choices and some not-so-great ones. Hopefully this year will tend towards the better ones.

- And the last point leads to another ... that doing a small number of shows is tough on inventory control, which directly affects profitability. If during the course of the year I try printing 20 new images and do only a handful of shows, but only 10 prints sell, then I'm stuck with 10 prints for the next year. Or maybe I'm just not sure if they were good or not, since there were so few shows to judge with. But if I do more shows then at least the "dogs" have a better chance of selling and I can quickly retire poor-selling images and work in better pieces to replace them. So doing fewer shows limits your ability to "move merchandise", good and not-so-good merchandise alike. Moving good merchandise is not the problem, but you have a harder time moving the "other" stuff as well.

- Planning for a successful year in a tough economic environment is ... well ... tough. Knowing that sales might take a hit means producing works that out-sell the competition, lowering prices, offering different products, or any number of other measures. Each measure is time-consuming and potentially costly, so as in any other business I have to weigh the potential risk-vs-reward. For example offering smaller prints is not very costly up front, but by doing so I may hurt sales of my larger prints. And lowering prices may increase the number of sales, but the overall revenue may not rise much if at all.

Hopefully I'll see you at one of my shows this year.

Saturday, April 26, 2008


I love dogwoods. The color of their blooms are bright. The individual flowers have a great, strong shape with beautiful detail, especially the pink blooms. The trees typically look very balanced and clean, not messy.

But photographing them can be a challenge. As I was working a grove of dogwoods and I was constantly thinking about what the final image would look like and what feeling it would have. Shooting the trees from a distance would require a very unique composition or else it would look mundane and boring. Shooting the petals up close is always a challenge with flowering trees because getting a clean image without a mess of branches, leaves, and flowers is tough. I could always break off a branch and do a clean shot with a nice blurred background, and that would have been OK, but I also liked, in some way, having the tree involved.

I made a few nice images, one of them below. It is a fairly simple composition, with the large tree behind the pink dogwood providing some contrast for the pink flowers. It is not a perfect shot, but when I make a print of it I think it will hold its own hanging on the wall.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Foxy Update

The foxes at Tyler State Park have become very popular with local photographers. It is unusual for a den to be so close to the road and easily accessible. I only have a 300mm lens at the moment and I was able to get some very decent shots. Someone with a 400 or 500 could do very well with these little guys. Although such a big lens is not in the budget for me I am about to get a teleconverter to get me a little "closer". Hopefully these guys don't grow up too fast.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Family Fox

I was out for a late-day shoot, looking for flowering trees or other signs of spring. I had spent a few minutes shooting a tree at a local high school, then made my way to Tyler State Park to look for more. I didn't expect to find much there, as my observations have shown that flowers and flowering trees typically require personal care and are usually on private property, and rarely in local public parks.

So I drove in one entrance and not seeing anything of interest I made my way out to the main entrance. In the adjacent field I saw the shape of an animal, and I quickly realized that it was a fox. I had seen foxes in this park a few times, but this fox was only 20-30 feet from the roadside. And as I got closer I realized something even more amazing - this was a mother fox and and it was in the process of nursing four young fox pups.

I stopped the car and quickly changed lenses, and I was able to capture a series of images that I would have thought was improbable. After a minute or two of nursing the mother fox became aware of my presence (and the line of cars behind me, wondering what was going on).

After a short time of nervously examining her surrounding, and wondering if there was a threat to her family, the mother separated and walked a few yards up the hill, while the pups remained, content to play with each other.

But the mother did not go far ... she was in constant visual contact.

The pups continued to play for a while, and as the daylight subsided I was content to have been allowed to experience this wonderful private activity of these wild animals.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Showing Improvement

In my previous post I mentioned that every winter, in which there are usually periods of photographic dormancy, I consider the possibility of changing the direction of my work. In a similar vein I also review how and what I present at the various art fairs and shows throughout the year. I don't do a tremendous number of shows, mainly because of personal time constraints. But I am very critical of myself. I did not start my art fair participation with a large investment, so it is a gradual process of improvement for me.

Here are a few things that I will be working on for this year's shows:
- Better quality of frames
- Better selection and presentation of notecards
- Better method of transporting prints and frames
- Better signage
- New images

Each item is pretty self-explanatory and is geared towards either making my shows a better success financially, or streamlining the set-up/breakdown process without risking damage to my product.

In addition I have changed my schedule from previous years. I have kept the shows that have performed well for me and I have replaced the rest with shows that I believe will be a success.

This is a never-ending process. The art-fair circuit is becoming more difficult every year, with entrance fees going up and attendance (generally) flat or going down. And 2008 promises to be a rough year with the economy hitting a rough patch. We have to constantly look for areas of improvement. Unless an artist is very successful we cannot simply repeat the same process every year.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Getting Back Out Again

Winter was a little disappointing this year (so little snow), so I am very glad to see spring arrive. While I sat inside, doing very little photography I contemplated many things. As always I think about going in a different direction with my work. Over the course of a few months I view hundreds if not thousands of images, online and in print. I am constantly impressed by the originality and quality I see in other people's work. My tendency is to get a feeling of mediocrity, especially since I am unable to do much work for myself.

Although someday I will probably take a course change, I still feel like I have a lot of work to do on my current course. In my resurgent years of photography, starting about 5-6 years ago, I was enamored with digital equipment and relied on my own innate ability to make nice, technically acceptable photos. For much of that time I was merely producing a lot of "pretty pictures". It is only in the past 2-3 years that I think I have moved past that phase, albeit at a slow pace, and begun to challenge myself to make images that are many things: pleasing to look at, technically superior, and meaningful at some level. So for this reason, and others such as the fact that I really enjoy outdoor scenic photography, I will continue for some time perfecting my skills in the same arena.

The following image was made this weekend at Ralph Stover park in Bucks County. I am really pleased with the composition, the shapes and forms of the moving water, and the color tones. When I arrived at the park around dawn the hills around the creek kept the surroundings in flat, uninteresting light. When the sunlight began to hit I was rewarded with some beautiful tones and colors. Enjoy.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Single Snowfall

This winter has been relatively mild in the Philly area. Temperatures have dipped below freezing a few times, and we have gotten some rain, but the combination of cold weather and precipitation has been few and far between. So I could not pass up the opportunity to try and capture some compelling winter shots. Since we're almost into March I don't know if we'll get another significant snowfall this winter.

The "ideal" winter conditions are often hard to come across, especially for part-time photographers with day-jobs. If it's a weekday then after shoveling the driveway I'm off to work. By the time I get the chance to grab the camera and get out and shoot more often than not the snow has blown off the trees and/or rooftops, or the sun is out causing super-high contrasty conditions.

The other problem is simply one of mobility. I like to capture the scenes when they are mostly un-touched by man, wind, whatever. But that means getting out soon after the storm ends, but the road conditions are usually less than ideal and the plows are still roaming, causing additional headaches.

Yesterday there were only a few inches of snow so the road conditions were not that bad. The sky was still overcast, creating even light, but there was a light rain most of the day. That did not affect the snow too much in the scenes, but it made my job harder by trying to keep the camera and lens dry.

I did manage to capture a few nice shots, like the one below. Before long it will be spring and the snow will be a distant memory, unless you have a nice snow scene hanging on your wall.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Philly Oasis

On a short photo trip in Philly last weekend my first task was to find parking. I always avoid the parking garages because I know there are a lot of parking meters in the center city area. But in the area I was interested in, the historic "Old City" area north of Market Street and east of 8th Street (I don't really know the boundaries but this is a good approximation), I was having a hard time that day. But after driving in circles for a few minutes, and accidentally taking a short round-trip to New Jersey across the Ben Franklin Bridge, I found parking in what I call a little "oasis" in this area.

Now for people who live in that area I'm sure this is no surprise, but it was for me. This area is clean, not very busy with traffic, and with a bunch of free parking. The oasis lies between the Vine Street Expressway and the Ben Franklin Bridge, between 6th and 2nd Streets. Check out the Google Maps view of the area.

This beautiful historic church, the St. Augustine Roman Catholic Church, is the main icon in this area, although there are a number of other churches in this small area. There are lots of cobblestone streets as well.

It's a little tricky navigating this oasis because of the surrounding major roads and the one-way streets, but once you get familiar you can get through with few problems.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Newtown Study

I have a confession to make. I live near Newtown, Pa, a quaint old town in the middle of Bucks County. It has a lot of historic buildings and a nice main street. A great place to live.

But I simply cannot get inspired when I attempt to photograph this town. I often return to Newtown with the intention to overcome this deficiency of mine and to make some great images. But I usually leave disappointed. I don't want to simply document the historic buildings - I want to create interesting and unique compositions. I believe the town is so simple (not a detriment) that it does contain many eye-catching features that can be used as main subjects.

The following series of photographs are from a recent shoot that I think yielded some nice results. One feature that I have always like, even though it is not viewable along the main street, is the rear of the Newtown Hardware store. It is an old brick building with a rusty old fires escape and a smattering of windows. When I visited Newtown on this trip the sun was setting and it produced some really nice colors and shadows on this building.

I hope you enjoy them.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

A Little Different

It's January and without snow this time of year yields few opportunities for scenic images, at least in my part of the world. The trees are bare, the skies are often dreary, and there is little color anywhere. Let's just say it is a "challenging" photographic environment.

I was out a week ago on the Washington Crossing bridge in the pre-dawn hour on a chilly morning. I was hoping to catch some nice morning light along the Delaware River. The cloudy skies worked against me, but as I walked along the bridge I was taken by some of the nuts and bolds holding this old bridge together. I liked the simple forms and shapes. And with the frost adding a bit of interest I just couldn't help making a few images of these things.

The image below is one example that I particularly like. It's nothing that I expect to sell (I may only make a print for myself) but I think it is a good example of simplicity that is so important in photography. The main subject is obvious, and I worked to get the threads in focus while throwing the background out of focus, since the background included the metal grating of the bridge's roadway.