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Books Featured Photography Reviews

Build A Better Photograph: A Disciplined Approach To Creativity by Michael E. Stern

Build A Better Photograph: A Disciplined Approach To Creativity - Rocky NookRocky Nook Press recently sent me a review copy of Michael E. Stern’s new book Build A Better Photograph: A Disciplined Approach To Creativity, and since I am always interested in the creative process (especially when it involves disciplined thought), I was happy to sit down with it for some quality time.

I gravitate towards that word “disciplined” because I am an analytical and systematic individual. My trusty Mac computer dictionary provided the following:

With that in mind, I have to add I also like insights into the actual step-by-step thoughts in the designing process for a photographer, and I look for good illustrations and well-written tutorials done by an enthusiastic photographer. All of these are well covered in Build A Better Photograph: A Disciplined Approach to Creativity. Add a DVD with additional images, 360 degree panoramas of studio shots in progress, some short videos of photographic sessions, references, and tutorials and you have a concise and worthwhile package.

Mr. Stern writes in an easy-going style that makes the reader feel that they are in the presence of an out-going teacher who enjoys sharing his techniques and learning experiences‚ both the good and the bad‚ and he is not ashamed to admit to mistakes made in that they provide part of the lessons learned that he would share with the student. It is no wonder that he has had a wide and varied teaching career in addition to his studio work. Among the places that he has taught are Los Angeles Trade Technical College, Art Center College of Design, Glendale Community College, Burbank Unified School District, Julia Dean Photographic Workshops, Studio Arts, Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, and Brooks Institute.

Mr. Stern’s professional career involves some seventeen years working for the Disney Studios, extensive architectural, product, and portrait photography. He cites a deeply committed relationship to Adobe Photoshop and its importance to the digital studio of today.

Build A Better Photograph: A Disciplined Approach To Creativity (ISBN: 978-1-933952-18-5, US $34.95 CAN $41.95) covers four major areas.

The first is environmental portraiture, and in it he delves deeply into the process of designing the portrait and how to load the image’s environment with telling clues that give insight to the depth of the personality of the subject. Along with that he gives serious tips about controlling and predicting color output. Workflows on the computer with an emphasis on organization (remember that word “Disciplined” in the book title?) are considered in depth as well.

The second major area that Mr. Stern discusses is involved in compositing techniques using the computer and Adobe Photoshop. How to light and shoot a myriad of different images and to bring them together in a final composite is painsakingly described with a variety of tutorial screen shots showing the multiple layers and layer masks necessary to produce the final image result.

The third area that is discussed gives lessons on using the scanner in place of the camera and takes a trip into personal style and creativity. It attempts to open up the student to looking at shape and form in the small world in order to sharpen the student’s design skills and to realize that not all images have to come via the camera lens.

The final section of the book looks at product photography and how to light a product in such a way that it is easy to vary background and key colors and to composite separate product images into final images.

Throughout the entire book several ideas continue to travel side by side with the craft and techniques of both photography and Adobe Photoshop as skills. One of those ideas is that the photographer must sell himself or herself continually to the client. This is necessary because there are many photographers who are skillful as photographers but who do not maintain a pleasant working relationship with the client. The job of the photographer is to satisfy the client with both the product and a pleasant personal working relationship. A photographer walks a thin line as he or she trys to promote their own ideas and creativity, and at the same time to deal with the preconceived ideas that the client may bring to the conference table. Satisfying the client in part means that the client must feel that they have contributed to the design concept greatly even if the photographer has promoted his or her own creative design successfully. Each photographer must know when to listen and when to speak (and how to do it tactfully) as the photographer and client come to terms with the final design.

Dealt with indirectly, but explained well, is the difficulty in dealing with the chain of command in large organizations. The filtering process between the ultimate client in the chain and the photographer is a delicate one because each individual in the chain of command feels the necessity of placing their own mark on the final product‚ else they cannot justify their own position in the hierachy. Putting it bluntly, this is hell on the creative process and can lead to difficulties.

I found Build A Better Photograph: A Disciplined Approach To Creativity a good read; it will provide a great deal of insight to the creative process and the day-to-day managerial skills and personality  necessary. Definitely a must read for the aspiring photographer who feels that mastering photographic and computer skills are all there is to the photography business.

His book has been published by Rocky Nook Press. Their books are printed on acid-free paper and the color in their books will survive long after the technical skills described in each volume will be replaced by the advances in our technology. Sometimes we get so caught up in the latest information that we forget how we receive that information. The “how” in this case is also important and should be acknowledged.

Build A Better Photograph: A Disciplined Approach To Creativity
by Michael E. Stern
ISBN: 978-1-933952-18-5
US $34.95 CAN $41.95

Michael Stern around the web:
His website CyberStern.com
His blog is  DigitalBeast.Wordpress.com
Find some excellent tutorials are at  SlideShare.net/Mr_Pixel
Michael Stern at The Brooks Insititute

Categories
Art Commentary Featured Photography Profiles

Profile: Bill Baker, Photographer

I am Here- An Austin Photographic Retrospective

This summer Austin features one of its own in a solo photographic exhibit of the current body of work of Bill Baker.  The Smokin from Shootin Studio emerged onto the SoCo scene within the past year and represents an iconic series of progressive Austin images in digital.

From classic urban architecture and figurative study to natural scenery, Bill Baker’s work represents a world where futuristic hope springs out of the wreckage of industrialized technology.  Described as “a way out” and “a train to everywhere” these images stand as portraits of the future eternal in a time when doubt reigns as the zeitgeist of the day. 

It would be difficult for me to report objectively about this newly minted progressive archetype of an artist without coming clean:  he’s my brother.  But in my defense I feel that I stand not only as his biggest fan but probably his biggest critic.  We are hard on each other for a reason.  Caring always requires that.

Bill Baker is a force. Not just your ordinary man about town with a mission but a forward thinking rattler.  He touches base with the people, artists of every type, and he understands at a very basic level what drives current expression in one of the most progressive cities on the planet.    His images portray every inch of that.

Since the very time of our upbringing in a home filled with artifacts of human creativity, art absolutely everywhere, he embodied a way of seeing things for what they were and not getting caught up in social protocol of how they should be.  He calls it straight.  If it was a lemon, he’ll label it a lemon.  If it was a priceless paramount in time and space, you’ll hear it.  His body language will shoot straight out and there will be this wince that comes out of his left eye.  You get the feeling when you see an image he has created that it is part of a piece of truth.

As an artist, Bill Baker is sincere – painfully so.  Progressive culture needed of shot of Bill in the arm.  We need someone with pointed vision to steer us clear of the fungus and the glam.

Here comes my own honesty…

One day, I received a call from Bill and it went something like this, “You know, Beck.  I’m ready to shoot.  What do I need?”  Threw me back against a couch! Wait, wait, wait a minute Bill.  I OWN that.  It’s MY sport. You don’t just change family labeling at the slightest little whim.  There’s a pecking order here!  I’m the artist.

I’m the one- for years slid off her clothes at the slightest adrenaline thought in front of my Nikon F and a timed shutter.  I printed those silver halide images by hand under my stairwell using the kitchen sink with fixer.  I’m the one who dragged that Hasselblad 500C handheld through Southern Mexico for three months and threw up an exhibition in a law office by hanging wire from the ceiling rafters.  I’m the one who searched mountaineering supplies like a rabid cat for a watertight bag so that I could throw my Nikon D200 in a kayak and capture abstract water and light reflections at dusk!  I was a little bit put off!

It’s funny how time skews all things into familiarity.  Bill grew persistent and manic about his practice of photography, technical even. 

Within one year he carried around at any given time the Canon G10, Holga toy camera, Canon RXT converted to infrared, Canon RXS, my old Hasselblad 500c (with a digital back in negotiation) and one of the Fuji instant cameras, all digital.  There was no stopping him.

In his own words, which are golden, he states:

“The G10 is what I carry every day now.  It’s the best. I have the Hasselblad but have achieved nothing out of that soul…yet.  It will become part of my workflow soon and likely, once I have the digital back it will be everything and all of what I carry on a daily basis.

I poked a hole in a body cap and put it on my best camera and walked around for a week taking digital pinhole images.  I dream of having a Holga lens fitted to my Hasselblad with a digital back.  How cool would that be…  I love the experimental relationship that I have with my cameras.  I am constantly trying to incorporate the soul of film into my digital work.  There’s a film hole there that I am trying to fill without actually loading film.  But truthfully I need the immediacy of the digital format. If I could put a digital back on a Brownie, I would.  Having the opportunity to put a digital back on my Hasselblad would be priceless. 

I use Adobe Lightroom for post-processing but have not yet used Photoshop.  I haven’t found a need for Photoshop in my workflow because it would tempt me to make more changes to my images than I think I should.  I want to stay as pure as I can.  I missed the whole film thing but have so much respect for it that I want my images to be as real as possible.  But real is relative when you’re talking about photography.  You have to manipulate the image just enough to convey the moment or the feeling without running astray of reality.  But sometimes I run amok and it feels good.

I know what my sister is trying to tell me.  I dare you.

When I think back now the days of photographic passion and intrigue that revolved around the silver halide of my youth, it brings me a sly grin.  I remember thinking that it would be impossible for me to share this with anyone that would truly understand, not really. 

I realize now that he was there all along.  We share it and it exists between us.

Bill’s work can be seen at http://www.smokinfromshootin.com

 

Categories
Art Commentary Photography

Infrared Photography

The switch from film to digital photography has benefited people who desire to shoot images in infrared.  Infrared photography was born in the First World War as an aid to aerial photography that was used to film troops and equipment on the ground.  Where infrared photography aids in this is due to the fact that when tree leaves or grass is photographed through a deep red (visually black) filter on infrared film, it is plainly different (lighter) than buildings, metal vehicles or camouflage nets that appear to our eyes to be the same green as the foliage.  This difference in tone makes it relatively easy to visually separate real foliage from artificial camouflage as used by the military.  Military intelligence specialists love it.

Following the First World War and up to recent times, non-military film users who sought to use infrared film for design or aesthetic reasons had to use an appropriate filter, and a tripod with their camera to shoot (mostly landscapes) with long exposures.  The filter used is very dense in order to cut out the visible light while permitting infrared light waves to pass through it. It is necessary to focus the camera first because the photographer cannot see through the filter, then to attach the filter to the lens before making the exposure.  Because of the density of the filter and the low sensitivity of the film, the exposures were quite long‚ hence the tripod and usually non-moving landscape subjects.

In a digital camera the sensor, the "chip" that receives the image, has a much higher sensitivity to infrared light than has film.  In fact, that sensitivity is so high that the camera manufacturer must add an infrared-subtracting filter inside the camera body in order to remove the effects of infrared on the visual subject.  Photographers who desire to photograph subjects in infrared have camera repairmen remove the infrared-subtracting filter and dedicate the camera to infrared shooting alone.  Once modified, the camera is suitable only for producing black and white infrared images, it would no longer be possible to use it for normal images.

Britt Stokes is a corporate photographer who uses the unique quality of infrared cameras to bring his personal work an otherworldly and fantasy-like quality.  Using the characteristics of infrared-modified digital cameras, he utilizes controlled aspects of the infrared process to give us a different view of the everyday world.
In infrared, greens appear light in tone, blues become black, and reds and yellows appear as various shades of gray.  It is not a negative image but rather a curious combination of positive and negative that occurs.  Skin seems to glow, blonde hair produces halos in the air and an apparent graininess overlays almost everything.
Britt Stokes brings his perceptive and selective vision to landscape and portrait images, and gives us his somewhat different view of everyday things.

Categories
Digital Lifestyles Media Photography The Not-So-Daily Edition

Photojojo can set your creativity free

No kitsch here. Photojojo.com is an original, exciting breath of fresh air. The slightly irreverent tenor and decidedly different ideas and photo projects make this site required reading for photographers and other artists in general.

This self-described "newsletter" of photography has projects with detailed how-to projects (at least enough detail to get you started), as well as some quirky cool photo accessories and services to purchase. The sell isn’t hard, and all the items seem to fall into the category of "things you might have missed" and are appropriate for our digital photography age.

If you want to open your horizons, visit Photojojo.com and spend a few minutes or a few hours exploring.

One of my favorites… Tim Hughes reviewed project of photographing vacation icons. To see the article, go to www.photojojo.com and click the Newsletter tab at the top. Scroll to the bottom of the page and find the search box, type in "souvenirs" and click search… in the results, select Michael Hughes’ "Souvenirs" – Bring Your Vacation Souvenirs to Life. Photojojo reports on a fun and funny way to document your next vacation, or even your hometown… one I would not have thought of. Of course, after viewing all these great photography ideas and inspirational how-to articles, you have to go make photos of your own. Good shooting!

Categories
Books Digital Lifestyles Photography Workflow

Exposure & Lighting for Digital Photographers Only

I recently encountered a relatively new book by Michael Meadhra and Charlotte K. Lowrie entitled Exposure and Lighting for Digital Photographers Only published by Wiley Press in 2007.