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: Clearbags.com. 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 (flourish.com). 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.