Wednesday, March 28, 2007


This column is about respect for people. It's a contentuous issue among photographers, especially street and documentary photographers who photograph everyday life. Where do you draw the line between your photography interests and the dignity and respect for others? Every photographer has their own criteria, and their line between ethics and disgraceful, as does everyone on the other side of the lens.

This question is usually raised when discussing crossing the line between public and private, and between respect for the homeless or transients and the photographer. On the first issue, between public and private, we all have our own view, in both senses, on being photographed. And while we may not like being photographed, the laws support the photographer when we're in public, or viewable from public space. We often don't like someone pointing a camera at us, but it's the reality of going through life.

I discovered this on St. Patrick's Day when walking around downtown Seattle before photographing the staging and the parade. In one incident in Pioneer Square a woman threatened to call the police if I took her photograph. I didn't because she changed the direction she was walking and I missed the photo I wanted. In another I saw this gentleman sitting in a store.

When I took the shots of him, I waved thanks and he waved back. So, it's a personal thing what we accept and tolerate being in public. My personal view is evolving. While I respect people's privacy, I am beginning to think more as a photographer who wants photos of people in everyday life. I don't have the personality or temperament to confront people getting close or become friendly with people as some great street photographers do in their work. I respect their talents and learn from them, but in the meantime I'll keep my distance, discretion and diplomacy.

The photo? I watched this person walk down the street looking in all sorts of places for something. He then bent over the recycle barrel for interesting stuff and I captured the image. He didn't seem to care I was there and walked on. Such is life on the street and photographing it.

Flavors of Photographers

I've talked about types of photographers, but when a recent observation, watching the steam from the shower escape to the bathroom vent, I was struck with the different flavors of photographers. I stood there watching the steam against the light from flood lamp, the water swirling from the heat of the light and the circulation from the vent. Sometimes it's the small things in life that attracts your attention deeper than the rest of it.

So what does this have to do with photography, photographers and this image? Well, it got me into thinking about the different flavors of photographers. I'm one of those photographers who walks through life looking, and when I see something interesting, I get out the camera and try to capture what I see. That's the bulk of my photography, and the rest is my interest in the simple and minimalism.

It got me to thinking what other flavors are there? It depends on the criteria you use, but I think there are some general flavors based on their motivation, interests, personality, and experience. Some are as described below, but one major criterion is if photography is an innate motivation or an innate interest, meaning if they are driven to carry and use a camera to capture what they see, or if they look and see and then use a camera to capture it.

This sounds the same, but I think it divides when you look at the photographer's background, namely their education and experience, and how they use the camera. And this is what helps discern the flavors I see in the photos and images from the many photographes. There is a lot of overlap as some photographers move between flavors. We're like ice cream at Baskin Robbins, what flavor are we today. And they are?

There are those like me who just express photography as a part of their life, scenes I see going through life. These can run the gamut to the occasional photographer to who, like me, simply pursue photography to enjoy the craft in life. Photography doesn't drive our life but it's an element in our expression of it.

There are those who use photography to capture an image. They run the gamut from street and documentary photographers to the very creative. There are two types of these photographers. Those who use the technology to produce the images they want, usually have a literate understanding of the technology. They discuss the events, places, and times, and gloss over the technical side or issues, namely because it's an end to a goal.

And there are those who focus on the technical side and issues in photography. The ones who can tell you all about the scene, including the day, time, circumstances, etc., the camera and equipment, and the process to produce the image. Sometimes they're perceived a gearheads or techno folks, but it's not bad because they often solve a lot of the technical issues the rest of us have problems.

There are those who create images. These usually originated from other artistic venues and find photography an interesting addition or expression of their are, but some originate in photography to create some of the innovative images we see. The overlap between this flavor and the previous one is that many photographers, such as portrait, studio, product, and other applications, require knowledge and experience in the technology and art. Why?

This is because the photographer has to "see" the final image and they find the technology and application to get there and produce it. This is often seen in advertising and product photography. The images that stop you and go "Wow, that's cool!", and then "I wonder how they did that?" When you look at ads in magazines, think about them, that's the culmulation of a photographer's talent, experience and knowledge to get your attention.

There are those who use photography to report. These are the photojournalist in the world, those who often risk their life to tell a story. Their images move us, in our hearts and minds, often to act and change the world. They are driven to go to places to capture events or life, and share their experiences in their photography. We can't say enough about these photographers, they deserve our highest recognition and support for their work.

There are those who use photography to share. These photographer are engaged in photography to share their images in travel, nature, landscape, adventure, wildlife, architecture, and other types of photography, often seen in a host in magazines, photo essay books, and Websites. The images range from the ordinary to highly visual. Their images move us to want to be there, experience the same, or just feel the life.

There are the "fine art" photographers. These are the images we see at galleries, in shows and in some of the fine art or photography magazines in portfolios showing images over years, and sometimes decades, of work to capture and produce the images, and reflect a dedication by the photographer to a theme expressed in their work, something we should cherish when viewing the images.

So, that's the thought on flavors. I'm sure there's more and I'll think of them walking down the street or seeing another photographer or their work. Who knows, which is the beauty of photography. It's always new if you look.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Thinking out loud

I'll say I'm a thinking out loud person and photographer. I like finding humor in almost anything I come across. It's part of my psyche and perspective, and sometimes my former co-workers and friends found that troublesome but I always did it with a smile and often in jest. It's what I've always been from childhood and embedded in my thinking.

For a number of years in my work with the USGS I was supervisor and a member of the office chief's senior staff. He was an ardent advocate of Total Quality Management (TQM) so went went through a series of tests to assess our personality and perspective within the TQM framework. It turned out I was a "fringe" person. And what's that?

Well, TQM emphasizes several types of employees, described in concentric circles outward from the boss and his senior staff. At the core are the loyal, trusted advisors and staff members. In the next ring are the general employees, loyal to the organization and the boss, but not always involved in the decision process. This group is usually 75+% of the organization. At the outer ring are the fringe people.

The general employees are usually the ones to follow decisions and become part of the "team" when requested, and who will reflect the organization's goals and plans. They rarely questions thing, assuming management is the smarter of the greater goals, plans and directions of the organization. The fringe people are almost the opposite of these employees, but in the TQM books, they're often the most needed.

Why? Fringe people, while dedicated employees aren't blindly loyal, always questioning decisions and actions. It's not rebelousness, but simply understanding. Fringe people are the free thinkers, the ones who look, see and think "outside the box", who look outside the organization for new ideas. That's what almost always advances the organization. New ideas rarely come from "normal" employees, but the fringe people, especially the radical ones that are often ahead of management.

This often means fringe people are those most distrusted employees, ones seen as second-guessing or interpreting management's decisions and actions. While many manager tend to remove or dismiss fringe people, the better managers embrace them to find ways to let them flourish, which in the end advances the organization and everyone in it. And me?

Well, I had a history of it at work, and use my photography now to express it. Why would you need to know you can't drive past that sign, like you could? Behind it obviously is a footpath, hedge and building. That's humor in the photo. The sign is for the road going left into a restaurant parking lot which has no exit. It's placed for those turning in to the lot see it, but somehow it's seems obvious standing there. It's a very short parking lot and if you can read the sign you can see it's a deadend.

Anyway, I thought it was funny. Maybe not to you but then, as they say, you had to be there?


Complexity in photography is expressed in three aspects. One is the photographer. Two is the technology, such as the camera system, film or digital capture, computer system and photo editor/production package, and printing. And three is the image. It's also the nature of photography that, despite the capture and presentation viewed as realism, it's a wholly subjective art, and the reflection, intended or not, of all three areas of the photographer and photography.

The photographer also has to see in a complex array of eyes, the mind's eye to look and see, the camera's eye to capture, and the image's eye to present. The second complexity is the camera system used by the photographer to capture, process and produce the images. The third is the image, both the original and the end product, envisioned by the photographer and the final presentation.

The photographer needs three eyes, as described above. Few photographers have all three, let alone master any individual one during a career. This was discussed recently on The photographer has to look and see in their wanderings for an image. Nothing happens without the photographer's vision and their eyes to compose the image in the mind and the viewfinder.

The photographer then has to have the camera's eye, to understand what the camera will do and know how to use the camera to accomplish the photographer's vision. This varys from the traditional practice used with large format photography to the most recent, sophisticated digital camera system. This comes with experience of the basics of photography to know and translate a vision with the camera.

The image is the hardest aspect as it's also the most subjective. It runs the gamut from documentary and street photography by photojournalist and documentary photographers for the communciations of events and the 'street' photographer documenting everday and ordinary life, to the most avante-garde studio photographer, such as Dave LaChapelle. It includes all the types of photography, such as wedding, portrrait, sports, travel, landscape, nature, and studio photography.

And the image can be range from the simple to the complex, as shown on's photo library. In my example, above, there were choices of excluding or including parts of the image. As a practice I try to compose and capture full frame, and using fixed focal length lenses, it can be difficult, but it's how I work in the field. I rarely think through this while working except seeing the image I want after seeing something in the scene.

While many photographers use the camera to define and refine the image they want through the viewfinder, I use the viewfinder to simply reflect what I see and envision for the image. The viewfinder guides where I stand, and yes, a helps a little to clarify my vision of the image. Like the one above, it was a choice of lens and location, and then the composition I saw, asking was it what I want. Then it's a matter of the camera's techonlogy getting there.

And that's the joy of photography, we're all different in our workstyles and workflows, and in the end our personal and professional expression in the final images. After that it's our hope you find something in them.

JMO - Smoking

I know many people have views and opinions on smoking, smokers and the tobacco companies. I usually sit quietly listening to the rants against people who smoke and the companies promoting smoking. I don't offer my view because, frankly, while I agree with some parts of their view, I don't agree with the tone or tune to their view. Why, if smoking is so bad, I'm against all the anger against the companies and many of the people?

Well, my brother smoked two packs a day for over 30 years, and even smoked a cigarette minutes before dying of a heart attack at home. My ex-wife smoked for over a decade before stopping in her late 20's. I'm not against smoking except in my home and car. And while I support non-smoking rules in public buildings and spaces and places where the smoke can or will effect non-smokers such as airplanes, and I support designated non-smoking areas restaurants, I'm for smokers to have rights and places not so badly designated to make it hard to smoke. Can't we be decent here?

I've never smoked except my first cigarette as a kid and hated it, and later for a few years with cigars and pipes (ah, our youthful experiments), and marijuana for a number of years in my 20's, I haven't smoked for nearly 30 years. But I'm not against smokers being giving public places to smoke better than we've treated them. And I'll anger the rest of you even more. I'm not against advertising cigarettes similar to alcohol. Why? Let's get real here.

We allow advertising an equally devasting drugs, such as alcohol and prescription drugs. We allow advertising products which inflict more harm on people, like cars, even to the point of allowing dangerous use of them in videos, TV and movies, in magazines, and so on. So what's the difference? Why not control advertising on cigarettes like alcohol with notices on the dangers just like the packages? Isn't it time we let the consumer take responsbility for their own actions? I don't buy the argument that an individual after a number of years doesn't know the dangers of smoking, and has a case against the company.

I am for the tobacco industry supporting the health care of smokers as the courts and State's have settled in their legal disputes. It's not fair I should pay for something a person should know better. My ex-wife is a respiratory therapist, the reason she quit smoking, and she's seen them all. It's not a pretty sight pumping someone's lungs from smoking for a long time, and they face a life of restrictions from breathing. But who's to blame here? And who should pay?

It's boils down to the common good. We all know smoking is bad, but so are almost everything we do in life, and we all pick up the checks. I'm not really against the health insurance companies paying for the effects from smoking, with the industry's financial help, because they cover a lot of other things we don't or won't get but others will. It's part of the whole of our society, and needs to be addressed with a national health care system of public and private insurers.

And the tobacco companies? That's another story, but we've lived through the worst times, so it's time we lighten up on them and just ensure they're good corporate citizens. After all, they're advertising around the world, especially in the Far East and China where they're new consumers are. I don't support the ban on them by Europe or the US, but I would support some reasonable control on their advertising and activities into some markets like kids. Otherwise, they're no better or worse than other companies and industries, and sometimes even better than many at international rights.

Just my one and only take on this issue.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

NPR - Being and Alone

I took this photo by happenstance. I was walking around downtown Tacoma and walked past the building under refurbishing for the Tacoma School of the Arts. I took it putting the lens against the glass. I am always amazed at construction sites, they're almost always clean and organized, because they can't afford injuries, losing or leaving anything, like nails or tools, and dirt is the enemy of many things in construction. They're only slightly disorganized when they're working but they always have people to cleanup.

Anyway, I liked the image with the small cleanup pan against the wall. But it's an idea of emptiness and possibility, the emptiness of what was and is, and the possibility of what will be. It's now alive with young people who don't know its past, only their present and future. And the building ties them to history and the future. I hope they thing of it now and then, and give thanks.

But you say, the point? Well, I have moments where I just stop and stand where I'm at with an empty mind to just be, as they say, in the moment, where I just let the senses experience being. No thinking and no emotions, just feeling the space and environment around me, like I'm the center of the universe and I'm paying attention. Ok, it's not new or even new age for that matter, but just a sense of being. Do you do that? Stop and turn your mind off, to experience what's around you?

It's one of the neatest experiences. It's about consciousness of being. It's what makes us alive and how few times we realize and enjoy the sheer joy of being and being alive. We're always too busy with life and everything pushing and pulling on us, constanting thinking and feeling. Zen teaches to look within. Taoism teaches to look out, to see the whole and your being it in at the moment.

And? Well, today at the local nursery looking for some new plants to replace the ones who didn't survive the winter, I was walking around when I just stopped and stood there. The sky had high cirrus clouds against the clear blue, the wind swayed the trees in the forests around the nursery, people talking, staff working, feet against the rocky path, the cold air, the smell of March, and the whole sense of just being there. And then it was gone.

And the alone? Well, Anneli Rufus has an excellent book, "Party of One", about people who are totally comfortable being alone. We're not loners, just normal people getting through life and don't necessary need the consistent company of people to do what we want and be happy. There are far more of us than you think, writers, painters, photographers, scientists, and on and on. You might take a look and read.

Why? Because as Anneli writes, the media has misrepresented people who are alone. They portray anyone who appears abnormal as "loners" when they're not. If you read about their lives, they wanted friends, to be a part of a group and were rejected, and the rejection triggered their anger and later rage against people. It's an unfair misuse of the description of a loner, and labels the rest of us as abnormal when we're not.

And you might wonder isn't it normal to want to be with people, be social? No. It's almost the opposite, very few people want or need to be in a constant social environment, and suffer mental problems when they're alone. Alone people function quite nicely in the world with and around people. And we like the company of friends and be social. We just like to limit it where we have time to ourselves to pursue our interests in life. Almost all the creative people in history were loners.

Really? Yup. It's because no one thinks and writes in a crowd. Everyone to be creative can work in a group, as we all do, but eventually you have to sit alone and do. Alone people are best then and there. Something to think about when you read that next book, watch the news, listen to music, look at art, and so on. It was created by individual working alone in the world.

It's like the photo. If you had to stand there, what would you sense, feel and think? If you were alone there, would you be ok with yourself or fear being alone? I am quite comfortable, otherwise I couldn't do my photography or sit here writing this column.

NPR - Common Sense

I saw this while walking to the St. Patrick's Day parade last Saturday. Somehow it's seemed so obvious that I wonder what event caused it. Probably a truck turned into the alley to smack the fire escape and get stuck. We all do this, leave common sense at the door, and do some really stupid thing, usually when no one is looking, or when or where we get can't get caught. Or the time we are put into the public light, and we stand there like an idiot, wanting to find the closest hole to crawl into for a few days while the ruckus goes away.

I remember when I worked for the USGS in Arizona. I had the opportunity to work with a bunch of excellent people and for a great supervisor for my few years there. His philosophy was the one you hear all the time, praise in public and criticism in private. When something went wrong, he would tell his boss, "We made a mistake and we'll fix it.", and then he would talk with you, "So, what did you learn and how do you plan to fix it?" Never blame or fault but always teaching.

Well, I borrowed that philosophy when I became a supervisor and later a senior technical manager. I only changed the phrase to, "Well, I wouldn't say that was the brightest thing you done lately." And I'd go on from there to ask what they learned to do better in the future. I told my staff and other employees, I expected mistakes, and the occasional big one will happen, but don't worry, there isn't anything that is so bad it's embarrassing enough to hide.

But sadly when I moved to the Washington office, I found the exact opposite. The only thing the supervisors measured were mistakes and used them in your performance evaluation. Being human wasn't the standard, being perfect was, except when they were caught making mistakes or missing deadlines, then it was a management issue, not open to employees to question. It's one of the reasons I took an early retirement, to get away from the demoralizing work environment.

It seems to me that over the last number of years if not decades, we're slowly losing simple common sense and humanity. Isn't it time we changed this direction and just be understanding? I'm not abdicating situations or events where it's serious, like crimes or traffic accidents, but those simple things in life we do or we enounter. This doesn't excuse not plugging our brain in when we go out the front door, such as driving while ...fill in the task..., but it doesn't mean we can't excuse those that do when we can let them.

It's just a thought, so are we human enough anymore to use common sense?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

JMO - Things you gotta love

I wanted to add a post of things you gotta love. Ok, it's tongue in cheek, after all who doesn't love a Harley Davidson police motorcycle, except when it's behind us with flashing lights and an angry rider pointing to move to the curb. This is more in the vein of what happened to people common sense and reality. So here goes.

Why do people when the walk into a big store stop just inside blocking everyone's path and looking dumbly around like they're lost? Haven't they been there before or remember there's people behind them? Try the help display or information people, but for heaven's sake don't stop.

Why do families in store aisles take up the whole width of the aisle with the cart and kids looking around while the kids sit down in the aisle or play with the stuff on the lowest shelves?

Why to tourist go slow in commuter traffic on a bridge? Don't they understand the sign, "Maintain your speed across the bridge"? Why do they get to an intersection and can't decide which lane to use because they can't decide which way to turn?

Why do people think the on-ramp is the freeway and expect they own the lane you're in? Why to they get to the end alongside you and suddenly decide you're the problem?

Why do people wait until the end of the on-ramp before they turn to see if they can merge to find they can't and then stop?

Why do people speed up to merge ahead of you then slow down once they are ahead of you?

Why do people push carts down the middle of the store aisle reaching on both sides so you can't decide which side to go around them?

Why do people wait in a long line at Starbucks until they get to the cashier to decide what drink they want and then can't find their wallet? What? They've stood in line for minutes and they can't read the choices, decide and get their money ready?

Why does the person in the crowd immediately in front of you stop for no reason to look around?

Why do people take magazines to the cafe at chain bookstores without paying when they say not to? Or worse, why do they not buy any drink, read a dozen magazines and leave without putting them back?

Why do people drive highend sedans or sportcars like grandmothers? Why do they sit in the left lane at the speed limit with a long line of cars behind them and none in front?

Why do people drive alongside semi's for miles on a rainy day and not just pass them so others can too to get away from the truck's spray?

Why do drivers drive 65-75 on straight sections of highways and then brake unnecessarily for turn?

Why do drivers pull so close in front of semi's they have to brake? Don't they see the truck? Have they ever seen what happens when a truck punts a little car off the highway?

Why do cigarette smokers flick the butts away around people when there is an place for them within reach?

Why do people bring dogs into stores?

Why do people let the dogs run in full view of leash law signs?

Why do people not pick up after the dog in full view of signs and the sanitary gloves and disposal buckets?

Why do people in NPR pledge drives try to make you feel guilty when you've already contributed already or through other means, like taxes and corporate support?

And so it goes, things you just gotta love. Don't you wish you could send a brain jolt to these people, "What are you thinking?" Anyway, I'll add to the list as people behave as people and you wonder...

JMO - Iraq

Why is Iraq the elephant in the room and everyone flees in the face of any real solution to the war and occupation our President promised us would be quick and bring freedom and democracy to the country and security and safety from terrorist? Why is it the elephant in the room in the discussion on the war on terrorism when we actually exacerbated international terrorism with our invasion and presence there? Why is it the elephant in the room when it comes to describing the reality of the state of this nation we literally destroyed?

Maybe it's time we need to find some common sense first and then hopefully we'll find some common ground. And how do we do that, like I'm an expert? Clearly I'm not, and while I've read and listened to a diversity of experts and the rhetoric of the politicians, I have an opinion, and like any citizen I'm entitled to it and to express it. So here goes some thoughts we need to do first, and maybe we can then get to some real solutions? I don't know but the current polarization isn't working.

Before we can discuss the issues, we have to define some ground rules. First, we have to lose the egos. Everyone has they view as they see it but it's not advancing anything but noise and hype. So, let's lose all the personal egos, leave them at the door of the discussion room, and bring an open mind. Second, we have to lose the arrogance. This is our worst enemy here and there. It's what's the basis for many policy decisions and actions, and it's time we decide we are part of the problem with our own arrogance.

Third, we have to be realistic and understand the history of the area and people of the Middle East. This requires, the fourth, shut up and listen. It's time we just listened to the diversity of experts, those who have lived through the history of the area and have objective views than personal agendas. We don't need their politicians pushing their agendas but we need people with real ideas. These come from those who have spent a lifetime learning and understanding the people, the reason we're there, for them, not us.

Fifth, we need to stop the often brutal militiaristic solution to the country. No one here would dare live there under such a repressive situation dictated by our military. It's time we just let them find their own solutions. We can't cordon off a whole city of 8 million people requiring going through many roadblocks with documents just to get groceries or go to work. The reality is that this isn't a longterm problem and governing it as a police state doesn't solve anything except inciting the enemy. We have to realize we're an occupying force which isn't loved anymore.

Everyone knows why Iraq was invaded and why we're really never leaving. We want to control one of the world's largest oil reserve to ensure our country's access to cheap oil. There were no WMD's. Iraq was not involved in 9/11. Saddam Hussein didn't support global terrorists and especially Al Queda. Iraq was not a threat to its neighbor or the region. The only truth was Saddam was a ruthless dictator, the same one we provided support from 1980-89 in his war against with Iran. We need to face our own involvement putting and keeping him in power.

Ok, while doing all that, are there solutions? I don't know but I have some thoughts. First, the President needs to have some honest discussions with the experts to frame the situation for a solution. We need to know where we are. Second, we need to have some ideas and choices of where we can go and where it may lead in its many directions. Only the Iraqis and the experts really have any answers here, not us, so it's time to listen to them.

Third, we need to establish some of the better choices and see where we fit in for an Iraq that will be a soverign nation with a government that works for them. This is the hardest since they don't agree and fear extending the civil war well into the future. We need the UN and its specialists here to see what can be done to minimize and where we fit in. The goal here is to leave, taking all our military with it. No special forces remaining to help unless asked by the Iraqis or recommended by the UN.

It's time we realized we're the elephant in Iraq, the eight hundred pound guerilla who doesn't want to leave and gets angry when provoked. When we realize we're our own worst enemy there because of our ego and arrogance, maybe we can find a real solution. It's what the generals have been saying if only our politicians will listen. We can't keep this attitude or argument any longer, it's not working for the people there and us here. So it's time for the politicians to shut up and listen to the people.

But I won't hold my breath waiting, which is said, because sometimes I wonder if the politicians want it to continue to make it election year fodder and rhetoric about patriotism, terrorism, national identity, and the always marketable 9/11. It's not about that, it's about Iraq. Let's keep that in mind and in our focus. Iraq isn't a territory of the US, but a soverign nation we invaded and are occupying, and we need to rebuild and leave, and hope as a good friend. Otherwise, the alternatives aren't pretty for years if not decades to come.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

St Patricks Day

Saturday March 17th, St. Patrick's Day, I decided to photograph the parade in downtown Seattle. Since I had never been to this parade, I had no idea how big it was so I went my usual 2+ hours early to the staging area where I like to shoot instead of the parade itself. I discovered I was alone in an area with only a truck and a few people. So I walked to Elliot Bay Books in Pioneer Square, with it's infamous open area known to be the daytime home to many transients.

While I was walking around photographing scenes and people I saw a good photograph with a young woman in black walking in front of some building fronts. So from across the street I held the camera and waited. Well, she saw me and stopped. When I let down the camera to see why she hadn't continued walking she walked across the street opening her cellphone say, "You can't take my photo without my permission and I refuse. If you do, I'll call the police." Well I explained it's public space and it's open to anyone taking photos of anything and anyone. She walked away in a hurry and a huff. It was a shame, it would have made a nice photo, but I'll never know now.

Anyway, I walked from there to the bookstore, wandered the bookstore, had a mocha, and walked back to the staging area closer about an hour before the parade was scheduled. I have a gallery of the downtown photos. After that I photographed people in the staging area and the parade getting started. I have a gallery of the parade photos. They're just walking around photos of people until the rain finally got to me to say enough and head back uptown to a cafe to get coffee and dry off since I didn't take a hat.

The one thing I still have to learn is getting closer to people to get better portraits, but for now I use a longer lens, usually a 85mm or 135mm lens. Like it's the only thing I have to learn. But that's life in photography, always something to learn and to do. And I have a life in retirement to spend the time.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Value of Simplicity

This post is both a life and a photographic topic. We all have seen the Henry David Thoreau quote, "Our life is frittered away by detail... simplify, simplify." Well, I'm believer in this logic and philosophy, find the easiest way to get what you want and get on with life. And sometimes it means making the decision to optimize your work or time, meaning it won't be perfect but something you can be satisfied with until you have the time or interest to work on it again.

I do this in my life, and I especially do this in my photography. I work to get the image I want in the field so I minimize what I do later in the computer. I occasionally work with an image to learn the tools and effects in Photoshop, but 80+% of my images are pretty much download or scan, import, make minor adjustments, size for the output, and get on to the next one. I almost always focus on one at a time but occasionally do a group for sizing after editing to simplify that process.

So,why the argument? Well, I read and hear a lot about all the work you can do in Photoshop to "fix" images. While I'm not against using Photoshop to produce an image you want to display or print artistically, but why for fixing something you should have done with the camera when you were standing there at the time taking the shot? This baffles me all the time because you can change settings and view the results so easily in digital or just shoot another shot with film. It's not that hard to simplify your thinking and work.

My point? Before you go to the photo work, think through it. What cameras do you need? What lenses? What equipment, such as flashes, and so on? I actually visually walk through it imagining myself there when I arrive and start. It's my mental check list. And before you turn the camera on, think through the work. Where are you? What is your goal and plan? What are the products for the images? What lenses do you need? Then think through the scene. What image format do you want to shoot? What camera settings will you test and use? Then just set the camera and plug in your eyes and brain and shoot away. And enjoy.

Take the fritter out of the work and simplify, simlify. How many tools did a lumberjack need when they were like the one in the statue, other than muscles? That's simplicity and focusing. Something to remember.


I've been posting some thoughts and tests in learning my Canon 5D camera on my 5D Blog. In a series of columns I wrote about testing the difference in the camera settings, which of them, the picture style, color/white balance and exposure metering was the most critical and so on to the least critical, and to understand the difference between shooting raw and jpeg format. Well, I'll stand behind the test for the first but not the conclusions I made at that time about the raw versus jpeg, because of my misunderstanding of raw format.

Well, due to the great folks at I've learned the difference. I still have some arguments about which to use and disagree with those who advocate shooting raw all the time, and I'll get into that issue later in this post. But first the correction to my understanding. Without getting into the details, which you can look up ad naseum with Google, the difference is fairly simple. And you ask, "Ok, what?"

The simple explanation is raw format is the original image based on the ISO setting and the exposure setting of the shutter and aperture, and nothing more. It simply records the intensity of the light falling on each pixel and records that. It's in a sense the same as film where the pixels are recorded film image. It's why the file size is so large, 36.5 Mbytes with the 5D being a full frame sensor.

The jpeg format is the converted image based on the camera settings, in order of importance, white/color balance, picture style, and metering type. This means the white/color balance makes the most difference between settings, picture style second, but really less so if you use the standard setting, and then the metering, which can be a minor to major change in the exposure reading depending on that setting.

The jpeg is what you see from the camera, similar to film with its characteristics. Raw has the advantage of being the original image with more flexibility to edit after downloading. With raw to tif or jpg conversion programs you can set the white/color balance similar to the camera. You still need to know the light conditions of the image so you can make the adjustments, but you have the full latitude with the color temperature.

The difference between the two is that jpeg uses the camera's raw to jpeg conversion and raw uses the image editor's raw to output conversion, and that's the choice you need to make, where to convert. Raw does have the additional advantage of the full set of image tools with the original image than with the jpeg's settings which is more adjusting than editing. So which is better?

The answer is neither. I would choose by the situation. If you can get good images with jpegs with the camera's settings and don't plan or want too much additional editing or adjustment, and you need a lot of images, shoot large or fine jpeg. If you plan to do a lot with the image, especially large prints, and want the original image, then shoot raw and process it with a photo editor. But remember you won't get near the number of image per flash card, often only a third to sixth of the number of jpegs.

I wouldn't recommend shooting both in the camera. It simply wastes space on the flash cards. You can swith file format so, think through what you want, set and just shoot away. Oh, the image? It's Agfa Scala black and white transparency film. I love Scala film, but that's a whole different issue.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

NPR - Reality of Being

I saw an article on this marker in the Seattle PI-Time Parade Magazine last year, so I saved it for the day day when I was in the area and I could find a parking spot, which is extremely difficult on weekdays. I wanted take a photograph of it for both being a geographer and seeing it as a sign of the reality of being. And after reading the second reason, you go, "What?", or "Huh?" Well there's an explanation.

If you don't remember from my other posts, I'm a student of Taoism and enjoy using this practice in my wandering in life and photography. And because it relates to another concept, Dynamic Equilibrium, which is the concept where everything is in a constant state of change and tries to maintain an existing equilibrium or move to a new equilibrium. It's was developed in the sciences and translated to system and information theories, and then to psychology and life.

And it's in the last place I like to dwell with the idea. For you see many religions, beliefs, faiths, or whatever practice subscribes to the concept of "being centered," meaning teaching the ways to find your center and staying centered. Well, while it's great in theory, it's not so great in reality, because our lives are constantly changing from our own and especially outside forces, and no really knows where "the" center really is. It's not fixed but dynamic as you progress through life.

And that's what Taoism teaches me, not striving for some center where I feel safe and secure, but striving for acceptance of my own existence as it exists right now. It's the adage about the wanderer when asked where his home is and he answers, "Wherever I hang my hat." You see, it's not about a physical home, although most people like having a physical residence to call home, it's about your state of being in reality. And so here's the test.

If you go to this place, located in Seattle South Lake Union and Cascade neighborhoods (sorry that's all the clues you get, the rest you have to search and find, but I'll tell you it's not hard if you look down on the sidewalk), and stand there, can you imagine all that is going on immediately around you, then expand it to Seattle, and then beyond that? What is changing in and with you that is from you and from the world at that moment?

Obviously we can't imagine or even begin to comprehend the totality of everything at any moment, which is why we live in worlds of bounded rationality where we limit what we see, process and remember. And that's where it's important to remember it's always changing and the best we can do is adapt as we go. There really isn't a center to our being, we are the center of our being in a dynamic world, and the key is simply find acceptance of ourselves in the world and our reality.

NPR - Choices III

I've written about choices in other posts, first about the concept of bounded rationality and second in the number of choices we choose to see and decide with in our lives. This post is about other choices that aren't often obvious or even considered but are part of the multiple choices we continually face in life. These aren't mutually exclusive choices, but merely facets of the choices.

The first is where the choices are simply getting better or worse, and staying the same isn't an option. Sometimes it's hard to see this or see this as choices, but these choices are fairly straight forward in what happens after you decide. For example, I've taken hiatuses from my exercise program of running and weight training, often for months due to work or life events. And when I think abouto starting again, the choice is simple, exercise and get better or not exercise and get worse. These decisions are often no-brainers, but there are times when the decision takes time to convince yourself.

The second is the "no-win" situation where none of the choices have any real benefits except it's often the differences in losses or changes. These are the ones we encounter in our life and really hate to face, let alone contemplate and decide. You know it's going to hurt in some way and you have to sort through the lessor of evils and severity of each. And often it's more a process of elimination from the worst to the least which works.

The third is the push-pull choies. With many choices, the factors in the decision have both push and pull factors, meaning for everyone pulling you toward it there are factors pushing you away or to others. These are often the most commonly encountered as everything has advantages and disadvantages. For example the decision to retire. There are numerous reasons to retiring, such as freedom, time, personal interests, and so on. And there are reasons to staying, such as career, professonal interests, opportunities, and so on. It's the weight of the factors for the push and pull of each choice that determines the final balance.

The fourth is the no decision, which is different than simply waiting, and the worse procrastinating. This is often what we do, simply don't make a decision hoping for something to change which changes the choices or for finding new information about the choices. It can be mistaken for waiting or delaying the decision, and the difference isn't always clear. A no decision implies uncertainity in the choices and waiting is indecision with everything there. A factor sometimes is time, a no decision usually isn't time critical where often waiting only adds to the stress in the decision.

The photo? I thought it was interesting to see that each of the children had a choice in the face of the moving ferry on a windy day. They could face the wind, turn and feel the wind at your back, seek cover from the worst of it while still feeling it, or just leaving to a safe place. Each of them made a decision shown in the photo. Something we can learn from children?

Sunday, March 11, 2007

JMO - First Post

This will be an example of what I mean by Just My Opinion (JMO), often written in shorter form on my MySpace blog. Hopefully I'll be a little less ranting and more coherent here. Before you decide to rant to me, first understand it's just my opinion, no better or worse and no more right or wrong than yours, it's just different and what each of use are entitled to as Americans under our Constitution. Second, you can read a short biography to note I'm a Vietnam-era veteran and a now retired 28 year career civil servant. And third, they're observations on what I hear (NPR, etc.), read (5 newspapers, Websites, etc.), and see (observing life).

So, all that aside, what are my views to present in this first post? Well, most come from reading the newspapers of the day and listention to NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, or Weekend Editions. I can't recommend better sources for balanced news and story reporting. And so, I'll get to the first post, which I apologize is lengthy because I haven't posted my views in a few days.

First, the FBI sting to find, arrest and convict terrorist. If there isn't anything harder to believe than our FBI wasting resouces, I don't know about it. As the arrests last years and recent indictments and convictions showed, their sting operations are more recruitment operations. They said they're being "proactive", but where is the line between being proactive to find exising terrorists and literally creating them? The FBI is clearly creating them by having their undercover people create the group, train the group, finance the group, and then arrest them before they actually carry it out? To a civil rights rights lawyer, it's really a WTF moment. They weren't terrorists before, and maybe just inexperienced extremists, so the FBI creates them?

The argument they state is that they were only helping existing ones along in their effors, but records show they actually lead the groups along with providing material, money, information, and in some cases, everything they needed to be a group let alone a terrorist one. Granted, it's fair to say anyone who falls into such a group is either predisposed to terrorism or stupid, or likely both, but don't they have rights here? So who are the terrorists here? The FBI or the suspects? And where is it legal for the FBI to help groups conducting terrorism overseas and not in the US, which is what many of these groups do. Is the FBI the new Interpol now?

Second, the US State Attorneys being fired. News today show the White House was behind some, if not all, of the firings because the Attorneys wouldn't pursue action against Democratic candidates before last year's election. The firings were pure and simple politically motivated actions lead by the White House and done by the US Attorney General. So much for the independence of the Justice Department to support Democracy? I hope Congress thoroughly investigates this and revokes the law they passed giving away oversight and approval to the President.

Third, and probably a very touchy one with many people, but simply put, 9/11 was an event, it is not a reason or an excuse to prohibiting or inhibiting freedoms and rights in the name of anything. It was a horrorific event, but it was one of thousands commited by terrorists in recent history. I am tired of people citing this one event as reason for changing anything. If we do, then they have won, making us live in fear and willing to do anything to appear to be safe, including providing our government with unlimited resources and denying or taking our civil rights.

And it has to be asked, do you feel safer or just being told you're safer (see FBI stings above) because your money is working. For what, our government creating events and media to make it appear they're doing their job? Ok, having said that, my solution? Simple, go back to 9/10 and then make the agencies work together and to the job they're supposed to. It's the adage they're looking for needles in haystacks in a field of haystacks. So, you're looking for something sharp and shiny, not dull and yellow. So why examine every piece of hay? It's called "Focus people!"

How many terrorist have been arrested, indicted and convicted with all the airline and airport safety rules? Try zero. So, why not implement better ways to find terrorists with greater freedoms for citizens to freely travel? We did it before, and some say it failed on 9/11. No! What failed was simple communications, human error in the FAA and FBI. That's all, people failed, the system didn't. So fix the system to make the people better. And five-plus years later the FBI still hasn't fixed the system with hundreds of millions of taxpayers' dollars. For what? They want more money now "to really fix the system."

Enough already. The FBI is failing, so get it right. I'm for that and their work, but never at my personal civil and human rights.

Fourth, Scooter Libby's pardon on the horizon. To Mr. Bush, don't. Let the legal process work. He has deep pocket friends paying the bills, while we pay the prosecution. He clearly lied and mislead people to cover up the real crime which wasn't clearly legal or illegal (it has to do with Valarie Plame's identity and status in the CIA, the disclosure, and the law). But I'm reconcilled George will pardon him the day after the election in 2008 and all our efforts for the truth will be for naught. It will be a sad day in this country, but George knows he's immune to criticism because he simply ignores it.

And lastly, technology and information. It is simply too much to keep up anymore. No wonder most young people tune out or focus on non-important issues. We did the same in our youth, and while the issues were equally important then as now, the enormity of them weren't on the global and international scale. They can't afford to tune out but they can't afford to keep up. And this was the world we created. The point here?

It's simply there is no way to stay abreast of anything, too many people doing too much in anything anymore to know. It's the ever-expanding curve of information, and available in real-time to your cellphone, PDA or similar communications device. It's the nature of the world today, but where does it end? Or is entropy the real and lasting effect? What have we done to create such an environment? Remember it's about the future generations, so in your choice you face decide for them.

It's about the children, their youth to enjoy freedom to be and life free of fear, and it's about their future, what we leave them. Can we do that?

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Interesting Day

It was an interesting day. Once or twice a month I go to Seattle via the Bremerton to Seattle ferry. Starting in January I started walking around during the one hour ferry ride and photographing the trip, the ferry and the people (outdoors, respecting people's privacy indoors). You can see photos of the trips here, see WSF and the ferry name (Hyak, Kaleetan, and Spokane).

In past trips I've only been stopped once by an employee who asked, "What's you doin'?", to which I said, "Taking photographs.", and he said, "Ok." and walked away. Well this last Thursday I rode the ferry Spokane and continued the practice, see the photographs here. Well, as the ferry docked and the cars began to disembark, a senior ferry official (employees where jackets with WSF on them while senior ones wear dark blue coats) stepped up to the window to talk.

He said one of the passengers had reported I was taking "suspicious" photos of the ferry. He emphasized passenger, not employee, because all of the stuff I photograph is in plain public view for everyone to read or employees to see. Everything private is behind locked doors, but everything else is open to anyone to see, read and photograph, and the Washington State Ferry encourages photography, even submitting images to their Website, see their Web page.

I gave him my card and showed him the images in the camera. He smiled, waved to the crew directing traffic, and said, "Have a nice day." It seems people are more concerned about a wandering photographer than the employees. After that I went to the University of Washington Bookstore and for some more photography in the University District. I noticed a lot of construction going on and thought it would be a good photo walk, or so I thought. I parked and went to a corner to wait for the crosswalk sign.

I saw these two Seattle police on the other side. It turned out the crosswalk was closed but the sign wasn't visible from the direction I walked, it was pointed toward people coming down the other street. Well, they informed me it's a $100 ticket for jaywalking and in a construction zone. I looked back and asked where the sign was, and they pointed to it, but then said they've had a problem all day with people crossing from the direction I came from. They were smiling, seeing I'm a photographer, so I just walked on and they didn't do anything.

They weren't there to give tickets but simply watch and warn people. So, why I asked not put the sign where people will see it clearly and not walk across the street. They just shrugged and said it wasn't their job. Ok, but then don't complain if people don't pay attention. That kinda' killed a lot of interest to photograph, so after about 30 minutes of taking photos, I packed it and went on my way to the UW Bookstore, the Apple Store, and to the doctors appointment, the reason for the trip to Seattle.

In the University Village I saw the drinking fountain in the above photo. It seemed appropriate, some days you don't need a drinking fountain to get wet or rained on, either physically or verbally. Some days just happen, and you have to adjust your schedule and attitude. In the end the doctor's visit was anti-climatic, a pulled ligament where it's attached to the bone, and the only remedy is rest. And the drive home was twice as long as it's the typical Seattle-Tacoma commute in the rain. You just have to remember the goal is to get home, so don't do anything stupid.

So it was an interesting uneventful eventful day. I could have been held or arrested by State Police (who polices the ferries)and ticketed by the Seattle Police, but I wasn't. I call it living in paradise, and some days it isn't but it sure beats other places or the alternatives.

JMO Posts

This blog was originally intended for photography related posts, but after a while I added the Not Photographically Related (NPR) posts about life, which is a replacement of my real life blog. And now I'm adding a new series that's entitled Just My Opinion (JMO), which is a replacement of my columns.

The goal with adding JMO posts is to talk about topics I see in life, which will be slightly longer posts of my MySpace posts and posts on things not related to either the current events in life or things of importance to me. Hopefully they'll be somewhat coherent thoughts, but occasionally it's just thinking out loud or a something I want to the reader to think about.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy them and you're welcome to comment. The photo? I saw this gentleman as the University District street fair in Seattle. He walked around visiting the various political booths to talk about his views on the state of the world. And he demonstrates the saying, "Stay on your feet, it's the only place to be."

Wednesday, March 7, 2007


This is about the different types of photographers. Not the types by the photography they do, but their audience, work, images and goals in their photography, along with other types that pass my consciousness in the discussion. It's not a definitive guide to anyone, but just my observations seeing the diversity in print, on the Web, at meetings and so on. Every photographer falls into each catagory and often overlap types of their work, but that's the reality of photography.

The first catagory is the obvious amateur, serious and professional. This is almost self-evident, and many photographers move through the types to become really good photographers, and some find the level they're comfortable with or have the time to commit to their photography. And as such, it's really a spectrum with arbitrary divisions because where they're in one type in one catagory, they may not be there in other catagories.

There rarely is anymore anyone called the complete photographer, capable of understanding and working in all aspects of photography, from the field to the production. Many photographers focus on one aspect, mostly the field work, and leave the rest to the other professionals for processing and production (printing and publishing), and providing guidence with their personal goals in their images. And when someone does do the complete work, from field to portfolio, you find it's a very time consuming job, often taking years for one or a few portfolios of images.

The second is the commercial and professional. This is often the catagory of confusion. They're not the same? Well, yes and no. The distinction is often where the income from the photography fits into the total income and work. A commercial photographer is obvious, they earn their income from their photography. Some are studio, wedding, or portrait photographers with their own business, and others are photojournalist (media), outdoor/nature photographers (eg. National Geographic), and independents working for companies or on assignments.

The professional, however, doesn't have to be a commercial photographer. They can simply focus their work on a few projects and types of photography around other professional and/or jobs. It's a passionate hobby they devote a good bit of their life becoming as good as they can. Some, like me, are less than professional, serious but like to focus on the few aspects I'm comfortable with and learn the rest as I go. It's a matter of small degrees of passion and motivation.

The third is those who photograph for themselves and/or for others. This is fairly straight-forward description. Most professionals photograph for others because they love photography, the work, the travel, and the subjects - ok, most of the time on the last item. Some spend most of their time working to have the money for their own photography, and some eventually move from assignments or jobs to their own photography. The rest of us photograph on our own dime because we love it.

The fourth is the gearheads, the composition, and the production. This is harder to describe because many overlap their interests in photography, but often tend to fall into one of the three types. The gearheads are the obvious with almost anything, the photographers who focus on the equipment. They're excellent for reviews and technical details and produce good images, just don't get into a discussion with them. You won't win. The composition are the one who use the equipment to focus on the image, the artistic and esthetics of photography and images. They're often critical of other's images, but also provides good ideas. The last type are those who focus on the production. They're the old-school darkroom folks for film processing and printing, and the new school folks for Photoshop and digital printing. They're cool for help, but often go overboard on the details and advice.

The fifth is the photographer's audience. For commercial or professional photographers, it's their customers, as expected, and for themselves on their time. But the key here is what level. Many professional shoot for recognition from other professionals, such as awards, as their art and craft as professional. But many shoot for the public for the subject or content to convey message or ideas, usually photojournalists, where the work is for newspapers, magazines or Websites. And many shoot for themselves as photographers or artist, for friends and family, or just to produce images.

The sixth is the field and office photographers. These are, those who like to work behind the camera, be where the photographs are, in the field, and those who like to take the images and then do the work in the computer and photo editor. True, any serious and professional photographers has to do both, and many do successfully, but many also are more talented and focused on one side or the other. For the latter, as long as the final image is ok, they're happy. For the former, it's in the original.

And I guess the photo above is an example. I took it on a fall afternoon in downtown Seattle. It's what I saw, and while I didn't do much in Photoshop, and could to, to improve it, I minimize my time in front of the computer. My goal is to capture what I see and present it as best I can.

NPR - Choices II

Ok, we all have choices and we've all been in situations where choice wasn't easy or desired. We see this related in the concept of the flowchart which offers help in the choices and decision process. But what's wrong with them?

There are two choices, yes or no. What about c) neither of the above? What's neither of the above? It's simply wait, something the flowcharts don't show, that you can simply choose not to decide right now. Don't pick either and just wait for more information or a change the may or may not occur. Sometimes it's hope for change, anxiety of change, less worrisome than making a choice of yes or no, or just wanting more information. There's something to be said for waiting, it's not procrastinating as many writers try to sell you, such as the one-minute manager.

Procrastinating is going way beyond the time appropriate for a decision because the person just can't determine the best of the choices. We all do this, some far more than others. I procrastinate frequently because I'm a Taoist, and sometimes decisions may think right but don't feel right and some feel right but don't think right. I wait until I can find the best that both thinks and feels right. Taoism teaches this doesn't come from conscious thought or action, but from intuition and innate senses which settles into the whole sense of the right choice.

This is difficult to explain, as with Taoism, if you can explain it, you don't understand it, and if you understand it, you can't explain it. But it's always simple and clear, where the whole body-mind knows and feels the decision is right. It's not for every decision, that obviously would take more time than I have on this earth to define choices for straight-forward decisions, like, "Gee, What do I want for breakfast?" After opening the frig, the choices are there, so follow your taste buds and go.

The point here? I don't know except to wander on the topic of choices we face every day throughout the day. We're conscious human beings getting through life, and we make an almost infinite number of decisions in the day where we focus on a handful to think through or follow our feelings. It's what happens, all those choices we make.

And the photo? Now you ask? Ok, it was taken on a summer day in 2005 (really in July too) in downtown Seattle. I was there for a medical treatment the day before and before going home I walked around from 6:00 am to 9:00 am taking photos. I found the city workers installing the anti-slip pads with the people walking by on their way to work. It's seemed interesting series watching the guy install the pads, the supervisor, and the people.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

NPR - Choices I

Choices, how often we think we don't have them, and how often we feel, at best, how few we have. We feel like the hawk in the above photo (taken at the Sacramento Zoo in 1970). I've always wondered what those two birds thought being caged with little room to fly, and never be free. Sometimes I, and I suspect many of us, feel like the hawk, wanting to have choices and feeling we have none except to sit and wonder.

When I was researching a paper a professor and I planned to submit to a oceanographic journal (Shore and Beach) about the impact of the Columbus Day storm on small residential peninsula northwest of Bellingham, Washington, I discovered the idea of choices. The beach front property owners had removed the first dune to get the best view of the Strait of Juan deFuca and Strait of Georgia, up to 60-plus miles, something which turned out to be their own demise.

The winds from the storm came down the Strait of Georgia and generated waves sufficient to throw 50-foot plus 2-3 foot diamater trees through houses and wash away beach wall. This was due to the lack of the first dune to protect the homes and property. Well, in doing the research I ran across the concept of bounded rationality, which explained how people make decisions.

Well, eventually I got the article published which lead to new research on floods in the Skagit River valley in northwest Washington State. That research fell through, but I continued my work into bounded rationality and natural hazards originally used by the Geography Department at the University of Chicago in the early 1960's to survey flood zone property owners. It's been used extensively since updated as the knowledge on the concept improves, but fundamentals still apply.

Why this and the subject of this column? Well, the concept applies to life. We build a frame around an issue in our life and then fill the frame with the choices we want to have, and only then do we think through the choices to make the one that we think will work. Wrong? Not really, but you have to remember you built the frame and you filled it with the choices. But did you ask what are all the choices? Is the frame too small to fit all the choices and information into it?

Do you ask yourself or someone you respect to help find all the choices?

I write this column because after making the big one to retire, I continue to make choices in my life and my photography. And that's what I've found is essential, not just knowing you have choices, but finding all the choices to get the widest array of options. You should build the biggest frame to fill with all the choices. You can always make it smaller when you narrow your choices, but as bounded rationality explains once you remove a choice or not see one, you'll rarely see it again. You keep shrinking the frame.

And this is the problem that many people say, "I didn't have a choice." You always do, you just decided not to see them. You made the choice to ignore or reject the other choices. And that is a choice you made. My problem is I keep the choices and keep revisiting them in the progress I'm making. You see, I hate saying I have no choice. We're conscious, thinking human beings with brains to see, comprehend, understand, analyze, and decide. Being a decision maker isn't necessarily good, it's the choices you have to make the decision with that matters.

And that's the point. Don't short change yourself by not seeing choices.


Every photographer has resources, and in this day and age it's not just people and places, but books, journals, Websites, and then people and places. And every photographer's resources are specific to their interests in photography, which is usually listed under "Links" Web page on their Website. But I don't list any, for that very reason, it doesn't make any sense that my resources would be of interest to you except maybe to think, "Hmmm..., interesting."

So I'll list the most important to me here, just so you know where I'm coming from and where I'm at, sorta' speaking. So, here they are by type.


I only subscribe to four magazines and journals, I prefer to view and sometimes read them first on a newstand, which Seattle-Tacoma is rich with independent and chain book and magazine stores. In photography I subscribe to the three I consider the best to read. These are:

LensWork -
View Camera -
Photo Techniques -

And the fourth? I've been an incidental fly fisherman for almost 30 years and have subscribed to Fly Fisherman ever since. You can't go wrong with this magazine.


While there are a lot of personal and professional photographer's Website, I only recommend two for consistent information by excellent photographers. These are: -
LF Photography -
   and especially the "Question and Answer" forum.


Ah, books, there are so many, so much to read, and so much to learn in photography. But really, not if you focus on a few good ones. And being a research reader, meaning I keep and read books for times I need specific information and rarely read them through, but simply keep them as references. However, a few are good enough for me to sit down over time and read cover to cover. These are:

"Using the View Camera", by Steve Simmons, Amphoto,
"A User's Guide to the View Camera", by Jim Stone, Prentice-Hall,
"View Camera Technique", by Leslie Stroebel, Focal Press,
"Large Format Nature Photography", by Jack Dykinga, Amphoto,
"Galen Rowell's Inner Game of Outdoor Photography", by Galen Rowell, WW Norton & Co.

That's about it for me, except the occasional philosophy or essays on photography. Bookstores are full of technical books on photography, and they beat you to death with technology and techniques, but in the end, the most important part is you, the photographer. The rest are the mechanics.


Every photographer should belong to some organization who's philosophy they believe is good for the environment and their profession. Personally, I belong to only two. These are:

The Mountaineers -
The Washington Trails Association -

Sorry, I'm no longer a member of the Sierra Club, I don't like the local chapter's treatment of members, and some of the national Chapter's political philosophy and views. They're a very top-down organization which takes your money and then ignores you unless you want to be fodder for their politics. It's sad they're not better considering their history and achievements.

But that's life. So, that's it as they say, and also, "Think Global, Act local.", to which I'll add, "Carry a camera."

Monday, March 5, 2007

NPR - Not living

Sorry for the subject title, but it's something that crosses my mind now and then. The truth is that I have genetic Dysthymia (you can google this to death if you want), but in short, it's chronic low depression. There are two types, incidental, meaning the individual has a depressive episode which is expressed as Dysthymia, and genetic, meaning the individual has a predisposition to be Dysthymic and expresses this over their entire life. I have the latter.

And why the interest? A nephew committed suicide at 19, my brother quit life at 48 when faced with the prospect of having heart-lung tranplant - he came home, sat down, and had a heart attack and died, and my father who died shortly after his 75th birthday - he just didn't get up the next day and died in his bed at home two days later. I've come close to suicide twice in my life feeling like a complete failure, which I explain here.

Can I function? Yes, easily. Good upbringing, and good perspective on life. You see Dysthymia isn't about depression, but about life and death, and the choices you make. You have to get up every day and choose life, if you don't, you stop living, and sometimes you quit life altogether. It's something few people really understand and want to think about let alone discuss. It's about dying and we separate "these" people from the rest of "us" as abnormal, and yet, you can't tell a Dysthymic or depressed person unless they tell you. We hide in plain sight.

Why this topic now? I was listening to a Dave Matthews Band song, and there was a line, "Grave digger, when you dig my grave, can you make it shallow so that I can feel the rain." And why this line? Well, I live on the top floor of my building and I love the rainstorms, to hear the rain pound on the roof. When it rains real hard, I feel it into my body and mind, and I feel in in my soul, in the dark as if I was buried and felt it.

Morbid? Not really, because we all think of death and dying, even when we don't. Do you think the writer of that line in the photo on a plaque about letters from the front of WW II veterans on the front? He knew he might die any day, and he spoke the words raining in his mind. He had choices and didn't, and he chose to express his thoughts. And is it appropriate here? To me it is, how many didn't come home? It's the reality of war.

Do you watch the TV show "Without a Trace"? It's an interesting show in some ways, and I like the beginning when the person of interest who "vanishes", they just disappear on the screen. What if that were you? What would you expect your loved ones to do? How would they miss you? Have you done what you want in life at any time? Or are you bothered with the day to day things of life, and forget? Or are you too focused on living, death isn't in your thought, but it's just something you accept should something happen?

Remember it's only a heartbeat away, so while you don't have to think about it, it always there. My advice from life on the edge of depression? Just live and let the rest take care of itself, and appreciate your life and loved ones. That's all anyone can ask.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

NPR Posts

NPR is short for Not Photographically Related, meaning when you see this acronym and the photo (above), you can know it's not an entry about photography, but about life. It's a continuation of my Website blogs on life from what I see in the world, often from reading newspapers, listenting to National Public Radio (the real NPR), conversations with people, observation in life, lying in bed wondering, or whatever comes across the senses to relate with my life in the world.

As you can see in the photograph, it's always done with a grin, hopefully to say while life is important, and sometimes I'll be angry, sad, hurt or whatever, I'll always try to find something to smile about. As you can see with the image from the Website blog, sometimes I want to strangle someone, but in the end, being a Taoist, I have to realize it's just what is, like it or not. Reality is. Nothing more, and it's what you have to look at to find acceptance of it.

As for the photo, it's part of a rock in a local open park area about half a city block in size, below.

The words starts at the center with an outwardly spiraling story on the top of the rock. You have to walk around it to read the whole story and I stopped at the phrase, "with a grin" to capture the words as a symbol of life before continuing the walk.

So, you know when you see NPR in the title and the top photo, which may change depending on the topic, you will know it's thoughts on life and not photography or my life in photography. So, while I listen to Pink Floyd, I'll ponder the universe, making sense of what I heard, read or saw, into words on the page. The old mind-body connection, the synapses and nerves attempting coherent communication. And as they say, "God help me."

Being Ordinary

I'm an ordinary photographer. I like walking around and taking photos of what I see, however I see it at the time. I rarely do much more in Photoshop except make the image as close to what I saw as possible, and only occasionally try to make small improvements. I know it's a waste of Photoshop, like driving a Ferrari to go grocery shopping, but it's what it can do if and when I want that I have Photoshop, and it's the most commonly used and written about.

Anyway, this photo was taken at the History Museum in Tacoma on a Sunday afternoon. This woman walked out the door in the background, looked around for a moment then sat down to do what she was doing. I just had to walk around to compose the scene for what I wanted and capture the image. I'm somewhat different from most photographers in that I don't use zoom lenses. All mine are fixed focal length lenses. This forces me to see in a fixed view, kinda' old-school to many, but it simplifiies my vision in photography.

And it's the vision of the photographer you see in the images, our view of the world - the composition, our idea of the scene - the color, crop or manipulation, and the content - the subject. We frame, compose, capture and present an image about what we see, the rest is yours to see and judge. We are as diverse as the general population, and it's all qualitative, nothing more. We range from the ordinary like myself to the Dave LaChapelle's in the photography world. It's who we are and our vision.

I'll stay with the ordinary and just walk around or hike the trails and photograph what I see, and hope you find something small in the images. You get a peek into our spirit and soul, expressed in our images, such as Luiz Rodrigo Cerqueira Sousa image. What do you see?

Saturday, March 3, 2007


This is one of my first serious photographs about Mount Rainier National Park, taken in the early 1990's, and has always been one of my favorite images, partly because it shows the reality of nature, always in transistion, in dynamic equilibrium as a scientist would say about the nature of things. This tree has split from the weight of the previous winter's snow. Every few years I go back to this spot to see how the tree is doing, and although I don't have some images to show you (in one of many boxes of slides somewhere), I can assure you the tree is still alive and growing. The top that was split and bent over finally touched the ground and regrew up as a a new tree. For fallen trees it's called a parent and child trees.

My purpose in photography is trying to present what I saw with the image as best I can. I'm not a fan of saturated or dramatized landscape or nature images, popular with books and calendars and with some professional photographers. They like to sell images and prints with the old-fashioned photography term of "pop." This is dramatized in this Don Paulson image taken from from a popular hikng trail. The image is beautiful if you're not familar with the scene and location, but to me, while beautiful, it's all wrong. Why?

First, look at the light in the distant trees and on the mountain. It's a late fall afternoon sun, so why is the foreground not in shadow? It should be, so the photographer increased the brightness of the foreground meadow. Why isn't the snow in the shadows darker? It should be, but the photographer heightened the snow which brightened the snow in the shadow. Why is the vegetation so bright? It shouldn't be, being a late fall afternoon. Why is the clouds so colorful? They would be lightly or subtly colorful, just not as brillant. I'm not against this photograph, but if you plan to go there to see this, you won't.

Compare that photo with mine above or this one taken on a late summer afternoon. My images are more flat, but also more realistic, meaning it's likely what you'll see. It occurs to me rarely is nature so brillant with heightened colors as you will see with nature and landscape images, which is a sore point with me for one reason, which was discussed at a photography workshop last November, namely where does realism belong in nature and landscape photography.

The workshop was lead by a noted photographer Scott Bourne. He emphasized that in wildlife photography realism is paramount, as is documentary and street photography and photojournalism, but anything is acceptable in nature and landscape photography. While I can say it's what's being done I do not agree with this philosophy or logic. It's sells prints, books and calendars, but it's a disservice to nature and landscape photographer who do strive for realism.

And while I've met Scott Bourne over the years and respect and admire his work, I do disagree with what he taught at this workshop. He showed how you take multiple images in the field, called bracketing, to ensure you have the shadows and highlights captured in at least one image. I'm not against this because it's recommended. He showed people how you can interlace or layer multiple images of the same scene to add or replace parts or colors in the image. In short, he simply said you can invent an image which didn't exist when you were standing there.

It's not what I strive for, and I've met other photographers who agree, and while they work on their images to enhance them, they don't go overboard as the example image. Several examples are Pat O'Hara and QT Luong. It's a fine line between realism and enchancement, and another between enhancement and saturation, and the judgement of the photographer. And my point is simply to use judgement when you see an image that seems too good to be real. It isn't real, but the photographer's imagination.