These images came together quickly – after a lot of gestation. I sketched the idea several years ago during a workshop with Focus On Nature. I made the shots last summer, scouting for another workshop with Ragnar th Sigurdsson and Arthur Meyerson. The first time I visited this location, (Skogafoss, Iceland) I took a few shots in less than half an hour, looking for major compositional variations. After looked at those shots and identified this idea, I shot very differently the next time, standing still for the better part of an hour and watching the water for significant variations within just a few compositions.

I wasn’t certain, but I suspected I’d want to add an accent to the abstract composition, deciding on smoke during processing. While I processed the files, I also sketched out a number of significant variations to test location of symmetry/assymetry, positive/negative space, light/dark, and location/angle/value of smoke. Doing this revealed more options than I had initially pre-visualized. And that means there are more related images to make. It also clarified a few outstanding ideas and connections to other images, some made and some still in development. That means I have some ideas about how they’ll can be integrated into existing projects and new things that will come out of them. I find the seeds of future work are usually planted in current work and if tended will yield more fruit.

I think about and plan series of images, often for quite some time before and over an extended period of time during their development. While I’m focussed, I look for surprises and modify my plans based on the new insights they introduce at every creative stage – planning, exposure, development, reflection, redevelopment, metamorphosis.

Find more images here.

Find out about my Iceland workshops here.

While guiding me on my Iceland photography workshop, Ragnar Th Sigurdsson rediscovered iPhone photography. He got obsessed with the App Hipstamatic, which produces photographs with terrific lo-mo effects. He started seeing differently. In addition to making many images with higher end photography equipment, he produced over 1000 new iPhone images in a few days.

We discussed the differences. Here are some of our thoughts.

The iPhone is smaller than most cameras. This makes it easier to position it in places you couldn’t place a DSLR. (Plus, the iPhone’s depth of field is very large and it can be focussed at very close range.)The iPhone’s small scale also changes interpersonal dynamics between the photographer and human subjects; people feel more at ease with what’s perceived as a more casual act, you can make contact with both eyes, and allowing the subject to see the picture while it’s being made (instead of after) provides a dynamic feedback loop of action and reaction or pose and repose.

The iPhone’s screen offers a large sharp preview and allows simultaneous comparison between an unaided view and the view as rendered by the device, in low light. In bright light, it’s often difficult to see image details on screen, producing a change in perception; broad structural relationships are seen without embellishment. (Low fidelity or distressed images emphasize this quality. When done well, they become perfectly imperfect. And the novel look generated elicits viewer responses which are markedly different than high fidelity renderings.)

Results are almost instantaneous. Images are processed in seconds or minutes, often on the spot, allowing a direct comparison and contrast between the scene and the image produced.

The practice of cell phone photography is significantly different enough that it encourages a great deal of experimentation. I recommend it to anyone who’s passionate about photography.

Cell phone photographs and the process of making them can be delightfully spontaneous.

Here’s a selection of Ragnar th Sigurdsson’s iPhone photographs made with the App Hipstamatic.

Find out about my 2012 Iceland digital photography workshop here.

Read more

We have a lot of fun in my workshops. Often, we use our iPhones to stimulate creativity. We try all sorts of creative experiments. This trip, one of the experiments I tried was creating cartoons of participants as superheroes or supervillains. It all started when our guide Ragnar Th. Sigurdsson put a luggage label on his chest with a fragile icon. I made a not sign on it with a Sharpee pen and he became Captain Unbreakable. Then I made an ironic cartoon of him with my iPhone. (Apps used are Toon Paint, Pic Grunger, and Label Box.) Everyone was laughing. Everyone wanted to play. We laughed our way through Iceland.

Because we were playing this game, we thought frequently about what text could/would accompany our images – titles, captions, essays and more. Frequently, a little levity can lead to useful creative insights.

Here are some of the images from these ongoing hijinks.

Find out about my 2012 Iceland digital photography workshop here.

Read more



Frequently, old ideas and feelings surface in the midst of our creative process. Tracking our own fixations and chains of association can be both revealing and rewarding.

The paintings of Morris Graves made a big impression on me at an early age. Ever since, I been interested in photographs of dead animals, particularly birds. I even made some of my own.

I stumbled into this territory, once again, by chance, while photographing on the side of the road in Iceland. I quickly made this sketch with my iPhone. I knew what was happening while I was doing it, because I’d already done a lot of observation of my creative process and soul searching. I recommend you do the same for yourself. You’ll be richly rewarded with highly personal insights.

Find out about my 2012 Iceland digital photography workshop here.

Read more

We do lightning fast reviews of participant’s images in my digital photography workshops. We discuss what works and why and what doesn’t and why not. It’s wonderful to see how different the images are, made by individuals in the same situations using the same tools. A lot of learning happens by simply sharing images and spontaneous responses to them.

Here’s a sampling from participants in my 2011 Iceland workshop.

Find out about my 2012 Iceland digital photography workshop here.

Read more

I often like to use props to make photographs. One of my favorite props to use is images. Photographing other images, in many cases, photographing other photographs, adds layers of complexity and offers many poetic opportunities. Images ask you to look and to look in certain ways. Two images ask you to look and look again and to look in multiple ways. I find this extremely stimulating. Making images with other images in them can be a fantastic creative wellspring.

Here’s a selection of images with postcards in them that I made during my 2011 Iceland workshop.

Find out about my 2012 Iceland digital photography workshop here.

Read more

For a time, I swore off making photographs that were like postcards. I was looking for something else then. I was looking for my own unique approach to making images. My thinking was that if I took a vow of abstinence from what I knew I wasn’t looking for, I’d eventually find what I was looking for. Eventually, I did.

After some time, I reconsidered this aversion to making postcard-like images. I started making them, again. Making postcards is excellent practice. You have to be fairly competent to make good postcards. Postcards survey a subject, tell a story, offer human interest, present strong color, and are composed of relatively strong graphic structures. Sometimes, postcards make strong emotional appeals. When you think about it, that’s a pretty tall order.

Postcards try to do it all – and do it all competently. It’s interesting to note that to transcend postcards, all you need to do is emphasize one of these qualities over the others and do that one thing excellently. Making postcards is great practice. To make good postcards you have to understand them clearly. To transcend them, you have to know the difference between them and what you’re really looking for.

Below is a selection of iPhone postcards from my 2011 Iceland workshop.

Find out about my 2012 Iceland digital photography workshop here.

Read more

One of the first things I do when I arrive at a new location is look at postcards made in the area. Postcards give me a quick survey of the highlights of the region and the classic visual approaches that many other photographers have used to make images there. Postcards help me decide where to go and what to look for. Postcards also present me with a great challenge – transcend this.  Postcards help me up my game.

Here’s a selection of postcards I collected during my 2011 Iceland workshop.

3 out of 6 of them are by Ragnar Th Sigurdsson.

Find out about my 2012 Iceland digital photography workshop here.

Read more

Iceland. Seljalandsfoss. A waterfall you can walk behind. Sunset.

I’m getting lost in Iceland with a great group of Focus On Nature workshop participants this week.

Stay tuned for updates.

Find out about my 2012 Iceland workshop with Seth Resnick here.

bad

During reviews in my workshops we discuss what keeps some images from working better and how they could be improved.

Here’s a list we compiled during my recent Iceland workshop.

Avoid these thing and make your images stronger.

Lack of Focus (Not Deliberate)
Limited Depth of Field (Not Deliberate)
Motion Blur (Not Deliberate)
Chromatic Aberation
Noise (Not Deliberate)
Posterization (Not Deliberate)
Lack of Shadow and/or Highlight Detail (Not Deliberate)

Color Contrast Between Elements Not Strong Enough
Low Contrast Light

Cropping Seems Accidental Rather Than Deliberate
Distracting Elements on the Frame
Almost Centered (Neither Centered Nor Significantly Off Center)

Too Many Competing Lines
Shapes Merge Becoming Unclear
Shapes Rendered Without Volume (Not Deliberate)

Too Busy (Complexity Lacks Structure)
Simple Subjects With No Counterpoint
Secondary Elements Distract From Primary Elements

Image Enhancements Call Attention To Themselves

Text Competing for Attention
Text Creates Unintended Commentary
Graphics (Text/Images) Not Integrated Into Image

Cliches
Insincerity

What else would you add to this list?

Find out about my digital photography workshops here.


keep looking »

Subscribe

Get the RSS Feed  

Subscribe by Email